When it comes to Lyme disease, there is no shortage of debilitating symptoms. The infection has only one course of treatment: antibiotics. Once these have been administered, though, the effects of the bacteria can potentially linger in the body for years. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). It is a chronic illness that can only be managed with other medications, other treatment like diet and exercise recommendations, and patience.
The symptoms of PTLDS are:
- Chronic fatigue
- Widespread pain and inflammation
- Joint and muscle aches accompanied by pain or swelling
- Cognitive decline such as memory and concentration issues
- Problems with speech
With a late-stage case of Lyme disease, those symptoms can be even worse and can lead to other chronic conditions that are hard to treat, such as:
- Kidney disease
- Lyme carditis (infection of the heart)
- Neurological deficits
- Inflammation of cranial nerves, nerve roots, the brain, or the spinal cord
When it comes to neurological symptoms, treatment can be especially difficult. The end result when the brain is affected by Lyme disease is generally called Lyme brain fog.
What is Lyme brain fog?
Brain fog is a condition characterized by confusion, the inability to concentrate, and a decreased ability to think clearly. It can also affect your ability to communicate thoughts and cause a high level of disorganization. The symptoms of brain fog in Lyme disease patients were shown to present in the same way as some stages of Alzheimer’s disease.
One study found that the reasoning behind Lyme-induced brain fog could stem from the Borrelia bacteria’s ability to limit or damage communication between neurons in the brain in mice subjects. It did so because of the presence of lipopeptides that were shed from the neurons by the bacteria. In the mice subjects, when those lipopeptides were present with the bacteria, neurological deficits occurred between neurological pathways.
Is Lyme brain fog permanent?
Although it may not be permanent, brain fog induced by Lyme disease is a serious and chronic issue. It can last for years following treatment with antibiotics, and often goes hand in hand with the other symptoms of chronic Lyme disease mentioned above.
The reason Lyme disease wreaks so much havoc on the body is because of the Borrelia bacteria itself. Not only can the bacteria mimic other conditions, leading to a delay in proper diagnosis, but it can also hide itself deep in fibroblast cells or in lymph nodes. When it does this, it can often evade detection by the immune system, thus avoiding the very immune response that would fight it off.
How to relieve symptoms of Lyme brain fog
Dealing with Lyme disease-induced brain fog can be hard, but it’s possible with the right treatment and symptom alleviations.
This may seem obvious, but if brain fog is occurring, there’s a good chance that the spirochetes of the Lyme-causative bacteria are still hiding out in the body. Taking an antibiotics course gives the body a fighting chance to get rid of the infection once and for all, which can lead to improved symptoms of brain fog.
Inflammation in the brain can lead to a heavy case of brain fog. A good way to battle it is by taking anti-inflammatory medication. It’s likely you’d need a prescribed anti-inflammatory that can make it through the blood-brain barrier.
Diet and supplements
A good diet is key in treating all symptoms of Lyme disease, and brain fog is no different. Eating foods rich in vitamins and minerals that have anti-inflammatory properties will help relieve symptoms. Supplements can also be taken to reduce inflammation and help battle brain fog caused by Lyme disease.
Know your triggers
Since brain fog can occur at any time, it’s important to note when it happens. If you recognize a pattern of what causes it – whether it be listening to loud music or while driving your car – it might be appropriate to avoid those triggers until other treatment is well underway.
It’s not easy dealing with brain fog. In fact, it can be downright frustrating. Giving the body the rest it needs will help you deal with episodes of brain fog. Relaxing may be different from person to person, so knowing what type of rest works for you is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to relieving symptoms of brain fog.
Treatment for Lyme brain fog
There is no direct treatment for Lyme disease-induced brain fog, but doctors may be getting closer to finding out just where the inflammation that causes it occurs. Research published last year showed that a controlled study using a new type of PET scan could pinpoint heightened levels of translocator proteins. These proteins are often higher when inflammation is present, so this breakthrough could help doctors diagnose Lyme patients with brain fog and treat it at the source.
The study itself was small, and the research would need to be exhausted in other studies with bigger groups and to include other controls, but the results show a little bit of light at the end of the Lyme disease tunnel.
Image by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash