While we understand exactly where Lyme disease comes from, how to best treat it is still a little bit of a mystery to us. For starters, patients are routinely misdiagnosed with all kinds of similar illnesses, so treatment is compromised from the very early stages. Compounding this is the fact that not a lot of doctors are Lyme-literate; in fact, there are very few health practitioners who are knowledgeable about the effects of chronic Lyme, the long-term form of the disease, and the best way to treat it. This lack of concrete answers can be frustrating for patients, who often have many unanswered questions about their condition. The central ones revolve around treatment plans and the prognosis. Often one of the first that comes to mind is, “Will Lyme disease go away if left untreated?”
The short answer, unfortunately, is a definite, emphatic “no.” Lyme is not the type of infection that can be eradicated off the body’s own steam; in fact, instead of curing it, the immune system compounds the symptoms and acts in tandem with the bacteria. This produces the exact opposite effect, and it would be fair to say that Lyme disease gets far worse if left untreated. However, while it won’t cure itself, it’s worth breaking down the two distinctive stages of the disease, as treatment during the initial stage will result in a much improved chance of recovery. If the disease devolves into the chronic stages, then recovery is much harder, and will involve a two-pronged approach to treatment.
Lyme disease is contracted through tick bites. The bacteria responsible, Borrelia burgdorferi, infects around two in three ticks, so the condition itself is quite prevalent. However, only the deer-legged tick carries the offending bacteria, so not all tick bites are immediately likely to result in Lyme. Contrary to popular belief, these ticks can be found anywhere in the United States, not just the northeastern states, and in fact, their numbers are growing year-to-year. A tick bite will often result in a bullseye rash, which consists of a red center surrounded by a circle of red. This is the telltale sign of Lyme disease, and should alert the majority of doctors that a Lyme infection is present. The rash is not present in all cases, however, leaving the remaining symptoms, which resemble the flu, open to interpretation.
These symptoms will actually dissipate over a number of weeks, giving many people the impression that the infection has cleared. However, this is not the case; it is merely retreating to return again in a new form, also called the chronic form. All doctors will know that Lyme doesn’t just cure itself, so as long as the disease is identified at this stage, there should be no problem clearing up the infection with a round of antibiotics. This is usually enough to stop the bacteria in its tracks, getting rid of it before it can mutate into the debilitating chronic phase. The important takeaway from this is that if you suspect you have Lyme disease, and the symptoms aren’t that bad or seem to be getting better, you still need to get to a doctor as soon as possible.
Leaving the disease alone will allow the chronic condition to flare up, and it’s then that the infection gets much harder to treat, let alone cure. The reason for this is because a large chunk of the symptoms are now caused by the immune system’s response to the bacteria, as opposed to the bacteria itself. It’s very hard to pull the immune system back from its overwork, as even a trace of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria will set it off. At this stage, antibiotics simply aren’t enough, as they only treat the underlying infection. A two-pronged approach is required, where natural supplements are employed to counteract the debilitating inflammation symptoms, which usually consist of muscle aches, joint and bone pain, headaches, and constant fatigue and exhaustion. There is simply no easy way to treat chronic Lyme disease, as the symptoms can be very disparate and differ widely from patient-to-patient. On top of that, many doctors are specifically untrained when it comes to chronic Lyme, and misdiagnosis rates are extremely high.
As explained, Lyme will not cure itself, but it’s certainly much easier to treat in the early stages. Although it might give the appearance of improving, the first round of symptoms is merely subsiding, getting ready to be replaced by an even more sinister set – which are much harder to shake. This is crucial for patients to understand, as the initial symptoms might not actually be that bad. Lyme is an insidious disease that grips the body over months or even years. It doesn’t possess immediate destructive power like some other conditions, but the longer you leave it, the harder it is to cure. And one thing that Lyme disease definitely isn’t interested in is curing itself.