The Science Behind Chronic Lyme Disease

Chronic Lyme Disease

When a young woman with no history of mental health issues suddenly began experiencing auditory hallucinations, her parents sought help immediately. The teenager was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and placed on antipsychotic medication, but it didn’t help. Several months and more than 2 dozen doctors later, the parents took their daughter to Amen Clinics where brain imaging, lab tests, and clinical investigation led to a different diagnosis—Lyme disease. With the proper treatment, the young woman eventually got her life back.

She isn’t alone.

It is estimated that approximately 476,000 Americans may contract Lyme disease each year, according to the CDC. Many of these people are treated immediately with antibiotics and recover from the disease. Others, however, develop bothersome symptoms that linger and become chronic Lyme disease, also called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.

Hundreds of people have come to Amen Clinics with mysterious psychological symptoms or cognitive issues that aren’t responding to standard psychiatric treatment, and they end up testing positive for Lyme disease. In many of these cases, the people have been struggling with unresolved issues for years but none of their mental healthcare providers ever tested them for infectious diseases. When these patients received an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment, their symptoms improved significantly.

Hundreds of people have come to Amen Clinics with mysterious psychological symptoms or cognitive issues that aren’t responding to standard psychiatric treatment, and they end up testing positive for Lyme disease. Click To Tweet

WHAT IS LYME DISEASE?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne bacterial infection. It is caused by the bite of an infected black-legged tick, also called a deer tick. These ticks are primarily found in the Northeast, northern Midwest, Mid-Atlantic states, and the West Coast. Many people who become infected with Lyme disease don’t recall being bitten by a tick and they don’t get the telltale “bulls-eye” rash that is characteristic of the disease. This is one of the reasons the illness often goes undetected. When left untreated, the infection hijacks the immune system and leads to a cascade of inflammatory responses that can have devastating, life-altering effects.

COGNITIVE AND PSYCHIATRIC SYMPTOMS OF LYME DISEASE

Lyme disease is a major cause of psychiatric and cognitive problems, but few medical professionals know it. But there is a growing amount of scientific research on the link between Lyme disease and these chronic issues. For example, a 2019 study in JAMA Psychiatry found that having a severe infection requiring hospitalization in childhood significantly increased the risk of mental health disorders later in life. Earlier research in the same journal from 2013 followed over 3.5 million people and found that being hospitalized for any infection heightened the risk for mood disorders later in life by 62%.

Lyme disease is a major cause of psychiatric and cognitive problems, but few medical professionals know it. Click To Tweet

Lyme disease has been associated with a wide range of neuropsychological issues, including:

Two of the most common symptoms are memory problems and negative changes in mental sharpness—both of which are experienced by 70% of people with chronic Lyme disease.

WHY LYME DISEASE IS OFTEN UNDETECTED OR MISDIAGNOSED

Because Lyme disease can cause so many neurological, psychiatric, or medical disorders, it has been called the “great imitator.” It can mimic symptoms of conditions, such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, ADD/ADHD, and more. This is one of the reasons why Lyme disease remains largely underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.

In the case of misdiagnosis, people may be treated with medications for conditions they don’t have. These treatments don’t help, and in some cases, they exacerbate problems or cause additional side effects.

GETTING A LYME DISEASE DIAGNOSIS

Lyme disease can be tricky to diagnose. Laboratory testing for the infectious disease typically includes 2 tests:

  • ELISA: The enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay detects antibodies for the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria associated with Lyme disease.
  • Western blot: This test also identifies antibodies to a number of proteins of burgdoferi.

These tests, however, can give false-positive or false-negative results. This is why additional testing, such as brain SPECT imaging, can help. SPECT scans of people with Lyme disease tend to show overall low blood flow and have a toxic appearance. At Amen Clinics, which has been using SPECT imaging for over 30 years, seeing these results on scans prompts psychiatrists or other integrative medicine physicians to investigate possible root causes.

TREATING LYME DISEASE

When diagnosed in its early stages, Lyme disease can often be successfully treated with antibiotics. Even in cases when the disease has taken hold and becomes chronic, it can be effectively treated. Targeting a comprehensive suite of solutions to the individual and their symptoms is key to finding a path to healing.

Lyme disease and other infections associated with psychiatric and cognitive issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, remote clinical evaluations, and video therapy for adults, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.

25 Comments »

  1. Thank you for a very informative article about Lyme disease. We were just discussing it with an arborist and he made us aware that it is much more common in our area of upstate NY than we previously had believed.

    Comment by Kathy — July 14, 2021 @ 3:59 AM

  2. Do you know of anyone in London England that test for Lymes? We are living here until February 2022 then return to Florida. I know something is wrong w my health and believe lymes might be the answer
    Thanks MELISSA

    Comment by Melissa Swymer — July 14, 2021 @ 4:34 AM

  3. I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in 2001 and treated by a specialist. But I still concerned about my mental health.

    Comment by Katherine Runion — July 14, 2021 @ 4:37 AM

  4. I wonder if there have been any studies linking metabolic syndrome to symptoms and/or infection.

    Comment by Todd — July 14, 2021 @ 4:40 AM

  5. My wife has been diagnosised with Alzheimer’s been in a home for almost a year we saw signs of it 5 years ago is there any help?

    Comment by James F Dinunzio — July 14, 2021 @ 6:26 AM

  6. I’m currently waiting results from Igenex for Lyme testing. Is it possible an untreated tick bite in childhood can give me cognitive trouble in my 50’s?

    Comment by Cindy — July 14, 2021 @ 6:30 AM

  7. ,As the award-winning author of 14 books, 25 years writing a weekly syndicated newspaper column, and a couple thousand magazine articles, I am also a Lyme Disease victim. Went undiagnosed for 11 years before being diagnosed in 1989. I was about a third finished with a book on Lyme when I was badly burned in a house fire , and have not resumed work on it yet. But my research revealed that Lyme is not just spread by ticks, although the tick is a perfect vector because it keeps the infected blood in its system for over three weeks. The Lyme spirochete bacteria has been found in every blood-sucking insect. Also, an animal is seven times more likely to be infected than a human, and can infect a human by simply licking someone in the face. It’s spread by body fluids.

    Comment by Robert Hitt NEILL — July 14, 2021 @ 6:50 AM

  8. Would a brain spect pick up a chronic sinusitis?

    Comment by Timothy D Lewis — July 14, 2021 @ 7:03 AM

  9. I had what I believe to be Lyme Disease back in 1976. This was not diagnosed as Lyme because it was not so common at the time. My doctor treated it as though it was a topical infection. I remember the bullseye rash starting on my ankles and eventually covering most of my body. I had a fever and was ill for about two weeks before starting to feel a little better. In 2006 my doctor sent me for bloodwork, which included a test for Lyme. The results were equivocal, so the doctor concluded that I must have had the infection at some point.
    After reading this article, I realized that I have had some of the lasting symptoms during my life. To this day I have had anxiety issues and minor attention difficulty. I am wondering if it had been properly diagnosed and treated whether I would have not had these issues.

    Comment by YVONNE B — July 14, 2021 @ 7:39 AM

  10. I’ve been diagnosed w several of the things listed on your list; I’ve been treated w/o change just new meds here new meds there to point I’ve stopped using meds n deal w/the pain etc on daily basis. I know I’ve been bitten by tick (took me 2 days 2 pull it all completely out of my arm) dr have never tested me 4 any Lyme disease just say it’s this it’s that so how would 1 go about getting their dr 2 test 4 Lyme disease vs playing w/dif meds that aren’t touching issue? I’m tired of dealing w/ the pain n having constant surgery 2 deal w/ the pain. Yes I’ve degenitive bone disease n have had major surgery 4 that but I don’t believe I’ve fibromyalgia or the other things they’ve diagnosed me w/ n have asked 4 further test but am told it’s not necessary. Hope u can answer n help me. Sincere thank

    Comment by Violet M Laasch — July 14, 2021 @ 8:13 AM

  11. Great Article. Lymes is a scary thing.

    Comment by Timothy Lee — July 14, 2021 @ 8:23 AM

  12. My daughter was diagnosed with Lyme disease when she was 7 and did the heavy antibiotics. She is now 35 and her Doctor tested her for lyme and told her she does not have Lyme and never did . Can that be possible???

    Comment by carol A Murray — July 14, 2021 @ 9:04 AM

  13. This is such great information! The only problem being, of course, is the cost. $4500 is a lot to substantiate for a test, even if the test may be life changing. It’s wonderful to imagine but hard to actually bring to fruition.

    Comment by Courtney Smith — July 14, 2021 @ 9:21 AM

  14. Hello Carol, thank you for reaching out and sharing about your daughter. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information about our SPECT scans and integrative medicine program. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 14, 2021 @ 9:52 AM

  15. Hello Violet, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information about our SPECT scans and integrative medicine program. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 14, 2021 @ 9:53 AM

  16. Hello Timothy, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information and resources. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 14, 2021 @ 9:53 AM

  17. Hello Cindy, thank you for reaching out. We’d be happy to contact you directly with more information about our SPECT scans and integrative medicine program. We look forward to speaking with you.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — July 14, 2021 @ 9:54 AM

  18. Amen clinics diagnosed my teenage son’s Lyme disease. We would have lost him without them.
    Trust them, it’ll be data driven and cured.

    Comment by teresa conville — July 14, 2021 @ 10:11 AM

  19. Hello All,

    I was diagnosed for Lyme at the Amen Clinics in July 2014.

    SPECT scan showed low blood flow in the areas needed and too much blood like the amigdalya area which will show PTS

    Comment by Michael Kunzler — July 14, 2021 @ 11:25 AM

  20. I contracted Lyme disease in December 2005 from a tick bite in the Northern CA Santa Cruz mountains. I wasn’t diagnosed until April 2007 after I became fully disabled. I received a Brain SPECT at Amen Clinics shortly thereafter which showed 8 areas of hypoperfusion caused by an infectious source (Lyme). This helped both identify appropriate treatment and to win my case with my disability insurer.

    Comment by Leslie — July 14, 2021 @ 5:43 PM

  21. Could Lyme Disease from a bite cause vertigo a 1 1/2 years later?

    Comment by Jo Ann Brewer — July 14, 2021 @ 7:46 PM

  22. I was diagnosed wit fibromyalgia in 2000. It is getting worse not better. I’ve been taking bipolar meds since the early 90’s. I still have mood swings and depression. They took two mri’s in the early 90’s thinking I had ms. Nothing since. Should I ask my primary care doctor about a Lyme test? I am on Medicare and wonder if they would pay for it. I’m 68 and had to stop working in 2010 because my concentration was horrible. One day I was fine and the next week I was at home wondering how I got there. Help !!!

    Comment by Joyce Malone — July 14, 2021 @ 8:20 PM

  23. Thank you for this confirming article. I had been sick with fatigue, 103 fever, no appetite, aches & pains for 5 days. I felt much better on day 6, but my heart rate became rapid and irratic. I was admitted to the ER Critical Care Unit with Aterial Fibrillation. My husband asked the docs to test me for Lyme. It came back possitive. Around the same time as all this, our daughter was diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid athritis. She had two Lyme tests come back negative (as they so often do with the way NY tests for Lyme) so we ordered a comprehensive Lyme test from Igenix in CA which we will do this week with our daughter & her pediatrician. Looking forward to a proper diagnosis and a continued path towards good health.

    Comment by Jessica Landi — July 15, 2021 @ 7:12 AM

  24. Excellent information. Did not see any reference to the timing between the infected tick bite and onset of Lyme disease symptoms appearing. If improper and ineffective treatment for a bacterial infection happens during a designated early time of Lyme infection, the patient may not ever test positive for Lyme disease. This was my situation. Fortunately, my rheumatologist identified I fit this profile. It is a very rare situation. Check the Lyme research for more specific information.

    Comment by Kathryn E Montgomery — July 16, 2021 @ 12:00 PM

  25. I have chronic Lyme disease and I was diagnosed in your clinic. Can chronic Lyme disease be treated with antibiotics? Or is it too late? In case it is late, what kind of treatment can I have?

    Comment by Karly — July 17, 2021 @ 3:02 AM

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