Lyme Disease & Fibromyalgia: An Overview

Lyme disease is a tricky bacterial infection. While it can be treated using antibiotics, many people who contract it go on to develop symptoms long after treatment. This is referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). This chronic version of Lyme can affect up to 20% of individuals who get the disease. For those who develop PTLDS, chronic symptoms include pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment.

Many other health disorders present similarly to chronic Lyme disease. The symptoms are often so similar that Lyme disease has earned the nickname “the great imitator.” New research has begun to shed light on how Lyme disease affects the body, with some finding that there may be more of a connection between Lyme disease and other chronic diseases than once thought. One of those diseases is fibromyalgia. But what is fibromyalgia, exactly? And how is it connected to Lyme disease?

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is, first and foremost, a chronic pain disorder. The pain that occurs in people with the condition is generally whole-body or widespread pain. Roughly 2% of the American adult population struggles with fibromyalgia daily.

While research is yet to pin down an exact cause of the condition, how it develops has to do with changes in brain chemicals. When levels of brain chemicals become abnormal, they negatively affect how the central nervous system carries pain signals throughout the body. It’s thought that the pain signaling is askew, causing pain to develop where it shouldn’t.

Even though the cause of fibromyalgia is not yet known, some risk factors are associated with the disease’s development. Age is a risk factor, and other associated conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, are also connected to the onset of fibromyalgia.

Image by Marino Linic on Unsplash: Can Lyme cause fibromyalgia?

Lyme disease vs. fibromyalgia symptoms

The symptoms of fibromyalgia vary, but always include chronic pain. People with the condition may also experience stiffness that affects the entire body; issues with cognitive functions such as memory, thinking, and concentration; and headaches.

Other possible symptoms that people with fibromyalgia can develop include:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety
  • Sleep issues
  • Feelings of tingling or numbness in the extremities, specifically the hands and feet
  • Disorders of the jaw that present with pain in the face or jaw
  • Digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, or abdominal pain
  • New onset of irritable bowel syndrome

Since many of these symptoms can develop in several conditions, fibromyalgia can sometimes appear like other diseases, such as Lyme disease. The symptoms that can occur in people with chronic Lyme disease include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive issues that affect memory and thinking
  • Difficulty sleeping or having restless sleep
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Swelling in the joints

Since Lyme disease and fibromyalgia have several overlapping symptoms, this could present an issue when determining between the two. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are connected.

Is there a link between fibromyalgia and Lyme disease?

According to some research, the link between fibromyalgia and Lyme disease may simply be their shared symptoms. It’s thought that Lyme disease may sometimes be incorrectly diagnosed in patients with fibromyalgia, and these patients may be given antibiotics. Because antibiotics do not treat fibromyalgia, they do nothing to help those who have not actually contracted the bacterial infection.

However, other studies have assessed fibromyalgia risk when associated with Lyme disease. The results show that while the two conditions aren’t always related, some people may have fibromyalgia triggered by Lyme disease.

Image by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash: Is there a connection between Lyme disease and fibromyalgia?

Are you at a greater risk of fibromyalgia after Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is not considered an official fibromyalgia trigger. However, several studies have been performed in the last three decades that state otherwise. One study done in 2015 monitored patients with confirmed cases of Lyme disease to assess the long-term repercussions of the disease following treatment. The study showed a 1% rate of fibromyalgia following a Lyme disease infection, typically following two or more Lyme infections.

Another study, published in 1992, found a far higher incidence rate of fibromyalgia symptoms in people with treated Lyme disease: 14 out of the 15 patients in the study had persistent fibromyalgia symptoms after being treated for Lyme disease.

More recent research has found that Lyme disease can trigger fibromyalgia in a small number of people. The caveat is that people who develop fibromyalgia after treating Lyme disease do so when there is no active bacteria or infection in their body. Because of that, only a few people with fibromyalgia may have had it triggered by previous infection with Lyme disease.

To sum up: Lyme disease and fibromyalgia definitely have similar symptoms. There’s some evidence to support that Lyme disease can trigger fibromyalgia, but not enough cases have been found to make it an official risk factor.

Featured image by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

doctor at hospital

Is Sjögren’s Really Lyme Disease?

There are many conditions and diseases that present similarly enough to be mistaken for one another. In some cases, a person can be diagnosed and treated for a disease or condition when what they have is something else entirely. This issue stems primarily from non-specific symptoms that display differently in different people.

Two such diseases that can often be mistaken for one another are Lyme disease and Sjögren’s syndrome. Lyme disease, especially, can mimic a wide range of other conditions, and Sjögren’s is just one of many diseases that may be diagnosed in a person who actually has Lyme. So, is Sjögren’s syndrome a serious debilitating condition the way Lyme can be? And can Lyme disease and Sjögren’s be considered the same thing? Read on to find out more about both conditions, their connection, and how serious each one can be.

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doctor consulting with patient

Can Lyme Disease Be Misdiagnosed As Sjögren’s?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness, often referred to as “The Great Imitator” because of its vast list of non-specific symptoms. Initial Lyme disease infection can present similarly to flu, and late-stage symptoms can be similar to arthritis. Because of this, Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as other conditions. And since treatment for Lyme disease needs to occur quickly to rid the body of the borrelia bacteria, these issues with diagnosis can make it much more difficult to get proper treatment and fully recover from the disease.

One example of a health condition that can be mistaken for Lyme disease (or vice versa) is Sjögren’s syndrome. But what is Sjögren’s syndrome, how does it affect the body, and how can Lyme disease be misdiagnosed as Sjögren’s? Read on to learn more.

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Infectolab - digestive system

Can Lyme Disease Affect The Digestive System?

One of the reasons Lyme disease is so hard to treat is the prevalence of misdiagnosis. But why do these cases of misdiagnosis occur on such a regular basis? Lyme has been recognized as a disease since 1975, when it was first discovered in the state of Connecticut. Yet we still know comparatively little about Lyme disease compared to other disorders. One reason is that the chronic form of the disease has yet to be legitimately recognized by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This has unfortunately led to many medical professionals being undereducated in the symptoms of chronic Lyme.

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