Plasma is the fluid in your blood that carries red and white blood cells and platelets around your body.
Plasma exchange, or plasmapheresis, is the process of removing infected blood and plasma from your system and replacing it with healthy blood and plasma. It is a process used successfully to treat autoimmune disorders like Lyme disease.
If you have an autoimmune disorder, that means your body attacks parts of your body. When it does this, it releases proteins that attack healthy cells. There are several varieties of autoimmune disorders, from Diabetes to Celiac Disease to Lyme Disease.
Let’s look into how Lyme disease is one of the disorders in which the whole body can be under attack.
Lyme and Your Body
Lyme disease starts with a deer tick carrying the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The tick infests under your skin, transplanting the bacteria into your bloodstream. Once in your blood, the bacterium multiplies and becomes stronger as it grows.
It can be so strong that even when traveling against blood flow, it is not flushed out of your system. It latches on to blood cell walls and can hide in the lining.
If you have this bacteria in your system, you will know it because of the inflammatory response you experience, like swollen joints, aches, and pains in both bones and muscles, swollen glands, and flu-like symptoms, to name a few.
To alleviate these symptoms, your doctor must get to the root of the problem: your infected blood. This is when a plasma exchange becomes beneficial.
Benefits of Plasma Exchange for Lyme Patients
One of the most reported benefits is the immediate relief of negative symptoms like pain and stiffness. Another benefit noted by patients is the reduction in inflammation, which in turn eases the pain associated with arthritis caused by Lyme disease.
Further benefits of plasmapheresis include assisting your body in ridding toxins, especially when other treatments like antibiotics have not been successful. Remember those super-powered bacteria that can withstand the flow of blood? Antibiotics can kill some of them, but not all. If any remain in your blood, they will reproduce until your blood is filled with them once again.
With plasma exchange, the bacteria are taken out of your body when the infected blood is completely removed. Most specialists will use donated healthy blood to add back into your system rather than risk cleaning and re-injecting your blood.
Because you are replacing unhealthy blood with a healthy version from a donor, you are ensuring that any co-infections are eliminated.
What are Co-Infections?
Ticks that carry the bacteria associated with Lyme disease can carry other bacteria too. That means they can pass on all the bacteria they are taking into your bloodstream. If they are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi and three different types of bacteria, you risk being infected with all four types, making traditional treatments even more difficult.
Infections that often accompany Lyme disease include babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, Bartonella, rickettsia, tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.
Co-infections often go under-recognized and under-treated, making it more likely for your symptoms to continue even after treatment. When patients go through treatments for Lyme disease, they can only be met with a recurrence of symptoms due to a co-infection, they can have a hard time coping both physically and mentally.
Disappointment and frustration make the physical symptoms worse. With plasmapheresis, you are eliminating both the Lyme and other potential infections.
How To Get A Plasma Exchange
Now that you know some of the benefits, you are likely interested in learning where to sign up for plasma exchange. Well, not every doctor can offer this type of treatment. In fact, only specialists in the field of Lyme disease or autoimmune disorders, with the appropriate equipment, should be allowed to treat your condition.
When researching specialists, make sure they are licensed and certified in treating diseases with plasmapheresis. Besides, they can explain the process to you in a way that is simple to understand.
They let you know exactly what to expect during the process.
What to Expect During Plasma Exchange
Plasma exchanges are not as difficult as they may sound. The process only takes two or three hours, and the most important thing you can do is relax and stay comfortable. You will be hooked up to a machine called a blood cell separator. A needle will be inserted into each of your arms.
The needle in one arm will remove unhealthy blood, carry it to the separator, and divide the plasma from your blood. The needle in your other arm will carry the donated healthy plasma back into your body.
Your specialist will add a blood thinner to your blood while it is in the separator, to prevent it from clotting. Some patients report a slight tingle in their lips, nose, or fingers. Other patients have reported a metallic taste in their mouth. Every patient is different, and you may not experience any side effects.
For your safety, most doctors recommend avoiding driving right after the procedure, simply because plasma exchanges can sometimes make you feel tired afterward.
Procedures are done on an outpatient basis, and the number of plasma exchanges will vary based on your symptoms, the length of time you have had Lyme disease, and other factors your doctor will assess during treatment.
If you are wondering about the cost of plasma exchanges, there are many variables to consider. Where you have the procedure done, which type of plasma replacement fluid is used, and the number of treatments needed are a few.
The good news is that in working with a Lyme specialist, treatment can be deemed necessary. Especially when other treatments have failed. This will make it possible for insurance companies to cover the cost in most cases.
In conclusion, therapeutic plasma exchange is showing positive results for patients in recent studies. You deserve positive health results too. Go ahead, reach out to a Lyme specialist today for more information.