Lyme disease is diagnosed in hundreds of thousands of Americans. This number is likely much higher due to testing methods available being primarily inaccurate. Those who receive a positive test result are undertreated since most general practitioners prescribe only antibiotics.
Antibiotics work in resolving some cases; usually, those treated soon after being infected with Lyme bacteria. However, many other cases persist, and symptoms become chronic.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms reported concerning Lyme disease. In one study, 48% of participants suffered headaches of varying intensity after being diagnosed with Lyme disease. In a study on Lyme disease symptoms in pediatric patients, 78% have headaches.
Unfortunately, those who are not yet diagnosed with Lyme disease may receive a misdiagnosis for the cause of their headaches. The reason is that headaches are common and a symptom of many other conditions unrelated to Lyme disease.
Conditions With Headache as a Symptom
The list of diseases with headache as a symptom is lengthy and includes head injuries, sinusitis, the flu, stress, and high blood pressure. Also, someone may have allergies to foods, thyroid disease, pregnancy, and numerous other potential conditions. You can see how easy it is for doctors to misdiagnose the source of the headache.
Unless you see a tick or rash or both on your body, you and your doctor may not know to consider Lyme as a possible source.
What is a Lyme Headache?
Tissues and membranes surround the brain and spinal cord. Lyme bacteria travel to these areas, followed by inflammation trying to get rid of the bacteria. When the area becomes inflamed, the central nervous system becomes inflamed, leading to pain in your neck and head that cause aches. This is meningitis.
Signs of a Lyme Headache
Throbbing. Sharp pain. Sensitivity to bright lights. These are a few signs of a Lyme disease headache. Other symptoms may include pressure in the head, seeing spots or auras, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, vomiting, weakness, numbness, tingling, and uncontrolled movements.
Sub-Symptoms of a Lyme Headache
People who have Lyme disease can experience a wide range of symptoms, some of which cause headaches. Meaning, the headache you feel may be caused indirectly by another Lyme disease symptom.
Other sub-symptoms that cause headaches may include:
- Neck stiffness
- Muscle spasms in the back, neck, or shoulders
- Swollen and inflamed joints
- Palsy or facial paralysis
- Jaw pain
Lyme Headache Triggers
Lyme disease headaches may feel like they come out of nowhere. However, you can have a headache in any stage of Lyme disease, without warning, when bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi spirochetes are active and causing inflammation in the body.
Other triggers of Lyme headaches include mental or physical stress at home, work, or socially. Additionally, lack of restorative sleep, toxins from the environment, and coinfections can trigger a Lyme headache. Even what you eat and drink can trigger Lyme headaches.
Types of Lyme Disease Headaches
Episodic headaches do not occur regularly. Instead, they appear randomly and last for a few hours or less. Chronic headaches can occur as often as every day and can last for days at a time. Some headaches are dull, while others are debilitating. The severity of pain can vary with each type of Lyme headache.
Common types of headaches include tension, cluster, and migraines. When someone gets a headache, they don’t usually connect it to Lyme disease right away. It can take months and sometimes years to link the two. One of the best ways to fix this is to document your symptoms and possible triggers, co-symptoms, time, day, activity, and length of headache is essential information for your doctor.
Below are the types of headaches that can appear with Lyme disease:
This type seems to cover the entire head. It’s like someone put a clamp on your head and started tightening. Each way you turn your head, you can feel a different ache. Tense muscles cause tension headaches, usually caused by stress, exertion, or an injury.
Ever had a headache behind your eye that feels like someone is poking you with a stick? If so, then you’ve likely experienced a cluster headache, which can be extremely painful and disruptive to your life. Cluster headaches have several sub-symptoms, like runny nose, bloodshot eyes, watery eyes, or saggy eyelids. Some people may mistake cluster headaches for sinus or allergy problems.
If you’ve ever had a pounding, throbbing ache on either the left or right side of your head, then you’ve likely had a migraine. Symptoms are mild for some and severe for others. Moderate to severe symptoms can interfere with daily functioning because, along with pain, you may feel nauseous, be sensitive to lights and noise, and have an extreme amount of pressure in your head. You may even vomit.
Migraines are no joke. Other symptoms related to Lyme disease can exacerbate a migraine, like pain in your neck and muscles. Medication is often needed to control migraines and a lot of rest.
Other types of Lyme headaches include sinus or allergy migraine on top of the head or face, thunderclap headache that lasts a short period but feel like a lightning bolt struck your head; and an airplane headache which is caused by pressure changes in your atmosphere and feels like a stabbing pain; and finally, exercise headaches that can lead to a feeling of pressure, nausea, and vomiting.
Treatment for Lyme Disease Headaches
Finding a Lyme literate doctor to treat your Lyme headaches is crucial. They can properly diagnose you and help you feel better fast since they have modern, advanced equipment and alternative procedures to treat Lyme disease.
The most crucial move you can make to alleviate your Lyme headaches is to work with a Lyme-literate doctor who can accurately diagnose you using advanced testing methods. They also can provide headache services in their modern equipment.
You do not have to suffer through another headache with an unknown cause. Call a Lyme literate doctor today for a personalized Lyme headache treatment plan.