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Infectolab - facial palsy

Is Facial Palsy From Lyme Disease Permanent?

Lyme disease is a complicated illness. It’s caused by the Borrelia bacteria, which is transferred to humans through a tick bite. Antibiotics are the only course of treatment following infection, but sometimes the debilitating symptoms of a Lyme infection can linger long after treatment has finished.

This late-stage Lyme disease is known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), and it can last for years following the initial infection. The chronic symptoms that arise from PTLDS can include:

  • Cognitive disfunction
  • Nerve damage
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fatigue
  • Depression and stress
  • Damage to the heart

These symptoms can be hard to manage due to the initial cause, and many Lyme disease sufferers can do nothing but treat the current ailment and wait it out.

Another common symptom of PTLDS is Bell’s palsy, or facial palsy. Let’s take a look at some questions about facial palsy and Lyme disease, including “Is facial palsy from Lyme disease permanent?”

Can Lyme disease affect your face?

If Lyme disease is caught and treated early, further complications may not arise. But for those who have been left untreated due to a lack of knowledge regarding their symptoms, it can progress significantly.

The Borrelia bacteria has a way of making its rounds throughout the body once it enters the bloodstream, and it can camp out in fibroblast cells (scar tissue) and lymph nodes. It has the ability to hide itself in a way that decreases the chances of the immune system having a response. This means the bacteria can still thrive and have a negative effect on all the body’s systems, including the nerves that affect the face.

Infectolab - nerve cell
Image by ColiN00B on Pixabay: Is facial palsy a symptom of Lyme disease? Yes, Lyme disease can affect nerves throughout the body, leading to facial palsy.

Can Lyme disease cause Bell’s palsy?

Although Lyme disease can cause facial palsy in those suffering from late-stage or chronic illness, it’s not exactly the same as Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is caused by inflammation and swelling of the facial nerve and causes paralysis on the side affected. In the majority of cases, Bell’s palsy presents with just one symptom: facial paralysis. It can also present with ear pain, though this isn’t always the case.

In terms of facial palsy associated with Lyme disease, facial paralysis tends to go along with a plethora of other Lyme symptoms, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Neck stiffness
  • Muscle and joint aches

The main difference between a typical case of Bell’s palsy and facial palsy caused by Lyme disease is the accompanying symptoms that present in the patient. The facial palsy in Lyme disease patients is caused by the Borrelia bacteria’s ability to damage nerves. It does this by attaching itself to the nerves and inflaming the area to an unsafe level. Once the inflammation has taken hold, the nerve damage begins to increase. Nerve damage associated with Lyme disease can be recovered from, but if left for too long, can lead to permanent damage in the affected area.

How long does facial palsy last with Lyme disease?

There is no definitive cause of Bell’s palsy, and the disease itself can strike at any time and any age. Some cases may arise due to a viral infection, but that is not the status quo when it comes to the onset of the condition. A typical bout of Bell’s palsy can last anywhere from a few weeks to around six months, and in most cases it does resolve. In few patients, the condition is permanent or can recur, though this is quite uncommon.

The facial palsy that occurs with Lyme disease is a little trickier. The recovery time is almost three times the amount than with a case of Bell’s palsy, with some cases taking roughly 18 months to resolve. Recovery time is also dependent on how quickly treatment begins.

Diagnosis of Lyme disease

Lyme disease has the uncanny ability to mimic other conditions, as well as lay dormant in the body in areas where it can thrive without causing an immune response. These tactics can make diagnosing facial palsy as a Lyme disease repercussion much more difficult.

To ensure that a patient with facial palsy is getting the right treatment, tests will need to be done to rule out certain conditions, and medical history will be taken into account. When Lyme disease is found to be the culprit, treatment may begin.

Infectolab - antibiotics
Image by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash: Antibiotics are the only treatment available for Lyme disease.

Treatment for Lyme-induced facial palsy

The treatment for Lyme-induced facial palsy begins with proper diagnosis. Because Lyme disease can be mistaken for Bell’s palsy, misdiagnosis can occur in those who don’t have the usual symptoms of PTLDS. Treatment can be a long road if that occurs, because Bell’s palsy is often treated with antivirals or corticosteroids.

There has been a link between the worsening of Lyme disease symptoms and treatment with corticosteroids – thus, if the condition is misdiagnosed, it can lead to much longer recovery times. Lyme disease treatment will always start with an antibiotic, and then, depending on symptoms, will lead up to various other treatment levels.

Physical therapy to help restore the movement in facial muscles may also need to be carried out to ensure a speedier recovery. Other treatments for Lyme-induced facial palsy include eye drops if the eyes have been affected, and in the most serious cases, surgery to improve the appearance of the face following nerve damage.

Featured image by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Infectolab - mental health during lockdown

6 Ways To Naturally Improve Your Mental Health During Lockdown

Taking care of your mental health is an important part of overall health, even in the best of circumstances. During times of high stress, the decline of overall mental health can occur and leave a person feeling both mentally and physically ill. The rise of mental health conditions in the last 20 years has been significant, especially in young adults and adolescents. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 25% of people will suffer from some form of mental disorder during their lifetime. 

Due to the state of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health is at the top of the health priority list because of the added anxiety and worry. Many people will be plagued with worry over the health of themselves and their loved ones, unemployment and job loss, and routine changes that could lead to worsening depression or anxiety. Taking care of yourself during a global pandemic may pose its own difficulties, but there are ways to stay on top of things so your mental health doesn’t suffer.

Ways to protect your mental health during COVID-19

There are ways you can ensure that your mental health is at its best when dealing with the onset of stress caused by the current goings-on. If you were suffering from depression or anxiety prior to the onset of the pandemic, it is even more important to stay on top of things.

The following are tips and helpful ways to help you manage mental illness symptoms or avoid the onset of new ones while the pandemic and lockdown are still in effect.

1. Focusing on things you can control

Although there is no way to completely avoid the virus or the risks that come with contracting it, taking extra precautions can go a long way when managing your mental health. Following guidelines such as maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask in public areas or when around large groups of people, washing your hands, and disinfecting surfaces that are touched most often can all go a long way in the battle against worsening symptoms of depression or anxiety.

2. Avoid binging whenever possible

Any form of binging is likely to worsen mental health symptoms – including binging the news. In today’s technologically advanced world, avoiding the current headlines can be tough. When things are constantly shared on social media sites and reports of updates on the virus are continuously being thrown at you, taking little breaks from being exposed to the information can be a great help. Staying off social media for the majority of the day and watching or reading something other than news can help curb extensive worry that may lead to the worsening of mental illness symptoms.

Other things like substance abuse and binge-drinking, binging too many television shows on a streaming service, or eating junk food excessively can all be harmful in the fight towards good mental health.

Infectolab - watching tv
Image by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash: Overindulging in things like Netflix and junk food can lead to a decline in mental health, studies have shown.

3. Exercise and eat right

Many studies have shown that diet and exercise can impact recovery from mental illness in a significant way. Eating a diet rich in wholefoods, fruits and vegetables, while avoiding heavily processed and ‘junk’ foods, can lead to the body being healthy, which helps encourage a healthy mind. Due to the mind-gut connection, giving your body the nutrients it needs will greatly help in the management of symptoms.

Exercise has also been shown to improve both depression and anxiety for a few reasons. Exercise increases body temperature all over, including the brain stem. When the temperature of that region of the brain is heightened, it relieves tension, thus reducing symptoms of anxiety. Exercise can also lead the production and release of endorphins, the chemical that causes feelings of happiness. It can also help neurotransmission throughout the brain, which is generally negatively affected by the imbalance of chemicals caused by depression.

Another great way exercise can help with depression and anxiety during lockdown is by distracting you from what’s going on. It’s a great way to pass time and can help you focus on one task at a time.  You can give yourself plenty of exercise by (safely) getting out into nature for walks or hikes, investing in home workout plans, and going for socially distanced walks around your neighborhood. The exercise doesn’t have to be extensive, but should be done for at least an hour a day.

4. Focus on sleep and relaxation

Getting a solid night’s sleep is important all the time, but it’s especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping the same sleeping schedule regardless of whether or not you need to get up for work in the morning is the best bet in ensuring you get the right amount of restful sleep required for mental health and alertness throughout the day.

Investing in a good meditation program can help with relaxation, and studies have shown that it can also encourage more restful sleep. Other ways to relax include reading a good book, watching your favorite television program (without going overboard on hours watched), or rediscovering hobbies that you wouldn’t otherwise have time for. Yoga can also be a great way to relax, and many free yoga classes can be found online.

Infectolab - sleep
Image by Bruce Mars on Unsplash: Is there a way to naturally improve your mental health? Getting enough sleep is a great method.

5. Stay connected

Being on lockdown can be hard, especially for people who live alone. This disconnection can cause feelings of isolation or loneliness that wouldn’t occur if life were “normal”. To stay connected with friends and family, having set days for phone calls or video chats could be a great help. Although it’s not the same as direct human contact, staying connected with loved ones is a surefire way to feel less lonely during the COVID-19 lockdown.

6. Seek help if it becomes too much

If the lockdown becomes too much, staying in contact with your doctor can help alleviate symptoms. If the symptoms you feel worsen and you can’t get in touch with your doctor, there are many helplines and resources that you can access for help.

Image by Diego San on Unsplash

Infectolab - vitamins

The 5 Most Important Vitamins To Maintain A Healthy Immune System

A healthy immune system is the key to overall health. It’s designed to encourage the proper response against invaders when they manage to infiltrate the body and cause infection, disease, or chronic illness. The immune system sends out specific cells in an attempt to curb the spread of these invaders and eliminate them from the body.

When the immune system isn’t functioning at its best – which can happen when the body isn’t getting all the essential vitamins it needs – pathogens have free access, leading to less than ideal outcomes. Some illnesses can be prevented entirely if the immune system is up and running at its most optimal levels, and when that happens, the body will thank you for it. Here are some of the most important vitamins to maintain a healthy immune system.

How to naturally boost your immune system

Boosting the immune system doesn’t have to be a difficult task. Many things can be done to help encourage the proper production of T-cells, including:

  • Exercise
  • Quality sleep
  • A diet rich in whole foods
  • Supplementation

Some vitamins reign supreme when it comes to helping the immune system get the job done right. Although the body needs a plethora of vitamins and minerals to run properly, there are some that focus heavily on the immune system, and these are the most important when it comes to boosting and maintaining a healthy level of immunity. So what are the most important vitamins for a healthy immune system?

Infectolab - healthy food
Image by Louis Hansel on Unsplash: What foods will boost my immune system? Vitamins that boost your immune system can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is a micronutrient that has a unique organic compound. There are two types of vitamin A, both of which need fat in the diet to be absorbed properly. Retinol is the active form of the vitamin and can be found in animal sources.  The plant form, known as carotenoids, is found in fruits and vegetables. The compound isn’t naturally created in the body, and when it is consumed through diet, it is stored in the liver.

When part of the body requires vitamin A, it is sent out from the liver to the specific area where it is needed. The vitamin can only be ingested through diet (or supplementation) and is found in many foods, including:

  • Dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and chard
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Squash
  • Pumpkins
  • Mangoes
  • Papaya
  • Liver
  • Eggs
  • Milk

Vitamin B6

As part of the B family of vitamins, vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that acts as a coenzyme in metabolism. B6 also has a great impact on inflammation throughout the body and, of course, immune function.

Deficiency in vitamin B6 can lead to a host of different health issues, including rashes, mood changes, and low energy or fatigue. There are many food sources available for vitamin B6, including:

  • Pork
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Wholegrain cereals and breads
  • Eggs
  • Beans (soya)
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

Vitamin C

Vitamin C has been hailed the best immunity booster, and for good reason. Also known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C has even been used in the past to treat ailments such as scurvy. It assists the body with enzyme production and tissue repair. In the immune system, it helps in the production of lymphocytes, a form of white blood cell that aids in the prevention of infection.

Plenty of foods contain vitamin C in high amounts, including:

  • Bell peppers (red, green)
  • Chili peppers
  • Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries
  • Lemons
  • Oranges
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Pineapple
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
Infectolab - immunity
Image by A.L. on Unsplash: Getting vitamin D can be as easy as sitting out in the sun, but getting enough requires a well-rounded diet.

Vitamin D

Another great fat-soluble vitamin that can help maintain or boost the immune system is vitamin D. The vitamin plays a huge role in absorbing calcium, magnesium and phosphate through the intestines.

In terms of the immune system, vitamin D is responsible for modulating the different parts of the system, including the innate and adaptive responses. When the cells responsible for immune response get vitamin D, they are able to synthesize it, encouraging the healthy response in the case of pathogen invasion.

A great source of vitamin D is the sun, but healthy amounts can also be achieved by eating the following foods on a regular basis:

  • Fish (salmon, whitefish, swordfish, rainbow trout)
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified milk
  • Soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Yogurt

Vitamin E

Last but not least is Vitamin E, a group of fat-soluble compounds made up of tocopherols and tocotrienols. Vitamin E acts as a cell protector, and is known to have antioxidant properties that can help eliminate toxins throughout the body. Vitamin E plays a role in the immune system by protecting and slowing the damage process of white blood cells, which in turn helps them respond better and faster to pathogens. 

A vitamin E deficiency can cause the immune function to slow and can also lead to other health problems, including heart disease and even cancer. Increasing vitamin E levels can be as easy as ingesting the following foods:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Nuts (hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds)
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Tomatoes
  • Avocados
  • Squash
  • Trout
  • Shrimp
  • Olive oil

The body needs to ingest the most important vitamins for a healthy immune system as regularly as possible. A healthy diet rich in these five vitamins will not only boost immune function, but also make it easier for the body to respond to pathogens, create new cells, and ward off chronic illness.

Featured image by Ella Olsson on Unsplash

Infectolab - tick season

What Does 2020 Summer’s Tick Season Look Like?

As the warmer weather sets in, getting outside is on the top of many people’s to-do list. This is even more true with the COVID-19 crisis that has rendered other popular pastimes off-limits in most places. With fewer indoor pursuits to enjoy, many people have turned to the great outdoors to get out of the house and into the sunshine.

When you partake in outdoor activities such as hiking, nature walks, and lounging in parks, the risk of getting bitten by a tick increases. The risk of contracting Lyme disease is also heightened by a potential delay in health care for those who do happen to get bitten by a tick. With hospitals and medical centers fighting COVID-19, other issues that seem small in comparison may be put on the backburner. But despite these seemingly sound indicators of a bad tick season ahead, some experts believe that it could actually be quite mild. So what does summer 2020’s tick season look like, really?

When is tick season?

Although there is a year-round risk of being bitten by a tick, the months to pay the most attention are March–June and August–November. These two periods are associated with the highest number of tick bites.

From March through June, ticks in the nymph stage are generally active if they survived the winter. They need to find sustenance to get them through the rest of the season (and their life stages). They are highly active when the weather begins to warm. From August to November, new ticks begin to hatch and look for hosts so that they can be one of the lucky ones that makes it through to next spring. 

Although they can be active year-round if the temperature is mild, the adult ticks that are typically found feeding into the fall will generally lay low if the weather becomes too cold. Cold weather also provides plenty of snow, which is theorized to provide a layer of insulation that ensures the tick population’s survival to the following spring.   

Infectolab - summer
Image by MacKenzi Martin on Unsplash: What month do ticks start coming out? Probably earlier than you’d think.

What makes a bad tick season?

Having an overabundance of ticks in any given area can be reason to call it a bad tick season, but a tick bite is just another animal bite unless that specific tick is infected with Lyme disease or any other tick-borne illness. Lyme disease is incurable, and can only be treated with antibiotics. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease can also live through a heavy dose of antibiotics and lay dormant within the body, causing chronic Lyme disease. That is why it’s important to note what makes a bad tick season.

Generally, the more rapid and widespread the disease is in ticks, the worse the season is. Many ticks contract Lyme disease by latching onto diseased animals and then becoming a host for the bacteria. When this occurs, they are free to pass the disease onto anyone or anything else they feed on.

Are ticks bad this year?

New research on tick populations for this year has shown that a specific species of mouse known to host the bacteria that causes Lyme disease and spread it throughout tick populations was actually lower in numbers last year. This means that the spread of Lyme disease among ticks is likely lower than it has been in previous years.

Next year’s tick season is a different story, though. Since the number of rodents has increased this year, it could result in a more abundant tick population the following spring, because there are more mice hosts for the nymph ticks to latch onto and contract the Lyme-causing bacteria from. 

Infectolab - tick season 2020
Image by Jerzey Gorecki on Pixabay: Are ticks bad this year/2020? Yes, but they could be an even worse risk in 2021.

What’s causing heightened tick risk this year?

Even though there may be less ticks than previous years, and even less infected ticks due to the lowered white-footed mouse population last year, the risk for contracting Lyme disease in 2020 is still higher than some may think.

This is mainly because of the aforementioned measures being taken in regards to COVID-19. The virus itself doesn’t have anything to do with tick season, but the recreational activities that are left on the table with lockdown measures in place could mean that people are spending more of their time in tick-ridden areas than in previous years.

How to avoid a Lyme infection

Taking the proper precautions to protect yourself against Lyme disease will be even more important this season, because of the heightened access ticks will have to new hosts and deprioritized access to medical care in situations involving only mild symptoms.

Wearing loose, light-colored clothing, checking yourself for ticks when returning from the outdoors, and monitoring symptoms closely if a bite occurs is the best bet to avoid contracting Lyme disease.

Featured image by Holly Mandarich on Unsplash

Infectolab - COVID-19 testing

COVID-19: How To Monitor, Test & Manage Employees Once Lockdown Ends

The COVID-19 threat isn’t gone from communities, but lockdown measures have significantly slowed the spread of the virus, meaning businesses have begun opening their doors. When employers do start to open up, though, they need to put into place new practices to ensure that both employees and customers remain safe and healthy.

Employers will need to implement new testing measures, such as Infectolab’s COVID-19 PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. The PCR test is designed to confirm whether or not a person has contracted COVID-19, and can help employers limit contact with employees that test positive.

The downfalls of reopening the economy

Many people are anxious for the economy to reopen and for life to go back to normal. But following the spread of COVID-19, a new normal is to be expected so that a second dangerous wave doesn’t hit the communities that have fought so hard to slow the spread. If businesses begin to open prior to proper testing being available, it could spell a whole new level of disaster.

Certain parts of the world have been at a standstill and businesses have been forced to lay off thousands of employees. Some have even been forced to close their doors for good because of the direct hit their books have taken due to the widespread closures. This makes it even more important for businesses to ensure the proper procedures are taking place, because if another lockdown is needed, they may be forced to shut down all over again.

Infectolab - serology testing
Image by Hush Naidoo on Unsplash: Serology testing is accurate in the long run, but is best in combination with a PCR test as a way for employers to test for live infection.

The faults in COVID-19 testing

There are many obstacles involved in creating accurate testing procedures for COVID-19. Aside from numbers being affected by late testing or no testing of those who are infected but remain asymptomatic, the challenges many organizations and medical centers face is the level of accuracy of tests. Some tests are more accurate than others, but involve longer wait times for results and are often more expensive.

Serology testing, for example, is more accurate in finding out whether or not a person had the virus at some time in the past, as opposed to whether or not they are currently infected. A serology test detects antibodies created in response to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This means that a person can be recovered from the virus and still test positive for its antibodies.

This type of test won’t be the first line of defense for managers, though, because it takes too long to return results and doesn’t detect active infections quickly enough.  

Will employee antibody testing for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus be available?

There are several types of tests used to confirm a positive diagnosis of COVID-19. The PCR test mentioned above looks for the RNA of the virus itself, and is most effective a few days following the onset of symptoms. The antibody test is designed to look for antibodies following the onset of symptoms and the infection. These tests are more generally used to gather data on numbers within communities, and not typically used to diagnose a current viral infection.

An antigen test also won’t be used as a first line of defense, because it is not as accurate as the PCR test. Instead, it will be used as a preemptive way to know if a person needs a PCR test. An antigen test does produce quick results, but is not as reliable as a PCR test, thus it acts as a screen rather than a definitive diagnosis.  

Testing employees for COVID-19 when lockdown measures have eased

Working from home has been encouraged for whichever businesses can do so, but for many, it’s just not a feasible option. So when the lockdown measures begin to ease and businesses begin to open, employers will need a surefire way to slow the spread by testing employees as they return to work and if they start to show symptoms.

PCR testing will be available for employers so they can ensure that no one slips through the cracks, and that their businesses and employees stay safe and healthy while the economy readjusts to these new times. Employers will need to ensure rigorous testing for employees is done on a regular basis, and as quickly as possible whenever a case is suspected.

Infectolab - mask
Image by Hanson Lu on Unsplash: Social distancing measures will still need to take place as businesses begin reopening their doors.

How to manage employees during coronavirus restrictions and reopenings

Getting the right tests for employees is the first step for managers and business owners in reopening their doors the safest way possible. The new PCR and serology monitoring tests designed by Infectolab will be a great way to help monitor all employees who may have come into contact with the virus or are presenting with symptoms.

Working together with employees, managers, and the public will help to keep the economy opening, while also keeping cases of SARS-CoV-2 down.

Featured image by CDC on Unsplash