Lyme disease can create a range of different health issues if left untreated. Unfortunately, because the early stages of Lyme disease are so non-specific in terms of symptoms, many people may be completely unaware that they even have the infection. For people who don’t immediately think about tick bites when they feel flu symptoms come on, the possibility of Lyme disease is the furthest thing from their mind.
Unfortunately, having Lyme disease over the long term can lead to various debilitating symptoms – but diagnosing Lyme disease or getting it treated before it turns into something more sinister isn’t always the way things go for people who contract the infection. So what are the many health issues caused by chronic Lyme? Can neurological symptoms be one of them? Read on for all you need to know about the potential neurological complications of Lyme disease.
Can Lyme disease cause neurological problems?
Lyme disease can wreak havoc on the entire body and every system within it, including the nervous system. The nervous system is a communication pathway that is made up of the brain and spinal cord. Another part, the peripheral nervous system, has nerves that extend to other parts of the body from the spine.
When this system becomes affected by Lyme disease, certain health issues can arise that affect more than just the brain – the nervous system is, after all, essentially in charge of a person’s movement, balance, senses, thought processes, and awareness. Unfortunately, the borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme also has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, which means it can get directly into the brain and cause issues with neurological health.
The reason why the nervous system can be so strongly affected by Lyme disease is because the borrelia bacteria is able to travel through the bloodstream throughout the entire body. It makes its way to joints, tissues, and the nervous system, and camps out wherever it can to survive in its new host.
What is late-stage neurological Lyme disease?
The neurological symptoms of Lyme disease can develop in the second stage of the infection, which typically occurs one to four months after the initial infection. It’s in this stage that certain symptoms that affect the brain and nervous system typically begin to develop.
That being said, neurological Lyme disease, which is a complication of the infection, can actually occur months or even years after a person first contracts the disease. In some cases, the bacteria may become latent and cause no symptoms at all, but will later reactivate in the body and cause neurological complications. For patients with neurological Lyme disease, the bacteria can affect cranial nerves, peripheral nerves, or the entire central nervous system.
There are many symptoms that can occur because of neurological Lyme disease. In the early stage two phase of the infection, symptoms may include:
- Facial palsy
- Vision issues
- Symptoms of meningitis such as stiff neck, severe headache, or fever
As the infection continues, more neurological symptoms can develop as well, including:
- Hearing loss
- Severe pain in various areas of the body, including the face and head, caused by nerve inflammation
In some severe but rare cases, even more serious complications can occur, such as brain and spinal cord inflammation and inflammation of the cerebral blood vessel.
Can Lyme cause neuropathy?
Neuropathy is a collection of symptoms that arise when nerves become damaged. Although it is most often associated with health conditions such as diabetes, Lyme disease can actually lead to neuropathy if the borrelia bacteria manages to infiltrate and damage the nerves in the nervous system.
The type of neuropathy that develops in a person with neurological Lyme disease is typically referred to as peripheral neuropathy, which leads to numbness and weakness in the limbs, paralysis of facial muscles, and pain in the limbs.
It can be hard to determine if neuropathy is caused by Lyme disease in someone who is unaware that they have the condition, so diagnosing Lyme disease based on the symptoms of neuropathy alone can be a difficult process.
Should you see a neurologist for Lyme disease?
A neurologist is a specialized medical professional who deals with all neurological disorders. When a person is suffering from neurological complications of Lyme disease, it may seem as though seeing a neurologist may help. But in truth, any doctor can test and diagnose you with Lyme disease, regardless of your symptoms.
It might be appropriate to see a neurologist for Lyme disease if you are only experiencing neurological symptoms; however, if you have any other symptoms of the infection, you should see your general practitioner first.
The neurological symptoms of Lyme disease can be difficult to cope with, but the good news it that Lyme disease can be treated. The best way to address any neurological symptoms is see your doctor so they can direct you to the right specialist or assist in getting you diagnosed with Lyme disease so treatment can begin.