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Be aware of Lyme Disease

In the fall of 2009, I noticed a lot of fatigue. I had mostly stopped golfing, fishing, going to the cabin, and I suspended most projects. My wife had a bad cold, and I thought that was my problem, too. I also had some issues with depression and anxiety, which I never had before. I had a lot of headaches, a strange kind of stiff neck, fever and chills that came and went, new back pains, and generally not feeling well. As the year continued, I developed something called brain fog. Those of you who know me may say that's nothing new. Brain fog, I believe, has similarities to Alzheimer's. Simple math and conversations became challenging.

In January, 2010, I started getting some swelling in my right hand. It worsened rapidly and overnight it moved to my left hand. Within 3 weeks, I was almost bedridden. My hands, wrists, throat, jaws, shoulders, knees, and feet were very painful. My hands had swollen to the point that I could barely bend my fingers. I saw several doctors, but Lyme's disease was not really considered. After having some friends mention that it sounded like Lyme, I asked for a test. The ELISA test was performed, but it was negative. After much research online, I became convinced that I had Lyme and decided that I would find a Lyme-literate doctor. After a lengthy visit with her she ordered the Western Blot test to confirm our suspicions. I have now been on 3 antibiotics twice daily for four months. Plaquenal was recently added to help with the arthritis that still lingers. I will be treated until I am symptom free for 1 to 2 months.

What I have learned through all this is that Lyme may be on the verge of becoming an epidemic. It is rampant in the dog population and I have spoken to many people who either had it, or know someone who has Lyme. The way medicine is practiced today, doctors just can't spend the time needed. A visit with a Lyme-literate doctor may take one hour or more. This disease is so hard to diagnose that we need to become our own health advocates.

It is important to know a bit about Lyme. The most common carrier is the deer tick, although speculation suggests regular ticks and possibly mosquitoes may carry it. The deer ticks can range from poppyseed to sesame seed in size. The most classic symptom is a bullseye rash, but about 50 percent of the people never get the rash or even find a tick bite. The symptoms are varied. Along with the ones I mentioned above, you can have night sweats, sore throat, muscle pain, back pain, or any unexplained pain, sleep problems, headaches, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and bells palsy. These symptoms often come and go, which is part of the reason I had trouble recognizing it. Often it is extreme fatigue that sends people in to the doctor. Of course, there are many things that may cause fatigue, so again, diagnosing this disease is difficult. It is being called the great imitator because it can act like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinsons, anxiety, and others. In fact, some doctors are thinking these diseases may be Lyme that has been misdiagnosed at least some of the time.

The best source of information for me is called Turn The Corner Foundation, which I found online. There are many resources regarding Lyme, but you must realize there is also a bit of controversy. There seems to be two camps of thought among health care providers. One group believes Lyme is a disease that is serious and needs to be aggressively treated, and the other feels it's the new catch-all for hypochondriacs. Which camp your doctor is in could have a big impact on how you are treated. I urge everyone to be well-read on Lyme. If you suspect Lyme and your doctor does not take your concern seriously, seek a second opinion with a Lyme-literate doctor. -- Bruce Nelson, Detroit Lakes