Lyme Disease and Other Infections

Unlike traditional psychiatry, which rarely looks at the brain, Amen Clinics uses brain imaging technology to identify patterns associated with Lyme disease and other infections.

What are Lyme Disease and Other Infections?

Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is a bacterial infection caused by the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, also known as a deer tick. This disease has been vastly under-diagnosed in the U.S. due to inadequate testing methods and a general lack of acknowledgement by the medical community. If the infection is caught early, antibiotics can often successfully treat it and avoid any lasting problems. Sadly, many people don’t even realize they have been bit by a tick. When Lyme disease remains undiagnosed, it allows the infection to fester, wreak havoc on the immune system, cause a host of inflammatory responses, reduce blood flow, and impair healthy brain function. For example, 70% of those affected with Lyme disease report changes in their thinking, such as memory loss and reduced mental sharpness.

Who has Lyme Disease?

Those who are active outdoors are more at risk for Lyme disease. Since children spend a lot of time outside, between the age of 3 and 14 are at the greatest risk followed by people over 50, who are also more likely to be outside gardening or playing golf. There are an estimated 427,000 new cases of Lyme disease each year in the United States.

What are the Core Symptoms?

It is well known that Lyme disease and other infections can cause physiological symptoms, including fevers, swollen glands, sore throat, headache, and joint pain or swelling. But many people are unaware that they can also lead to cognitive and neuropsychological issues, including:

  • Poor judgment
  • Memory problems
  • Short attention span
  • Trouble with focus & concentration
  • Poor decision-making abilities
  • Slower mental processing speed
  • Impaired speech functions
  • Changes in personality
  • Hallucinations
  • Problems sleeping
  • Decreased libido
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Getting lost
  • Violence
  • Suicide

Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed or lead to the following if it goes untreated:

  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Developmental disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Eating disorders

Why Choose Amen Clinics for Treating Lyme Disease or Other Infections?

At Amen Clinics, we have extensive experience diagnosing and treating Lyme disease and other infections, and particularly the neuropsychiatric symptoms that these infections can cause. Unlike traditional psychiatry, which remains the only medical field that rarely looks at the organ it treats, Amen Clinics use brain SPECT imaging to take the guesswork out of psychiatry. Based on our brain imaging work—over 160,000 functional brain scans and growing—we can identify patterns in the brain that suggest an infection may be the root cause of symptoms.
 
 
 
 
 

Infected Brains Work Differently

On brain SPECT scans, infections in the brain can appear as an overall pattern of significantly high or low blood flow and may look similar to a brain affected by toxins. When these abnormal brain patterns are visible, it indicates a potentially infectious process at work. When we see evidence of infectious disease on SPECT scans, we investigate with additional testing.

Healthy Brain Scan

Lyme Disease Brain Scan

SPECT (single photon emission computed tomography) is a nuclear medicine study that evaluates blood flow and activity in the brain. Basically, it shows three things: healthy activity, too little activity, or too much activity. The healthy surface brain SPECT scan on the left, looking down from the top, shows full, even symmetrical activity. The scan on the right, which is the scan of a patient with Lyme disease, shows overall decreased blood flow (hypoperfusion) in the brain denoted by the bumpy surface of the brain. The indentations seen in the brain scan are areas of the brain that are low in blood flow and activity due to the infection.

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Lyme Disease & Other Infectious Agents

Lyme disease isn’t the only infection that can interfere with brain function. Other infectious agents can also cause inflammation and lead to brain disorders, which can mimic or cause a multitude of symptoms associated with mental health conditions. Because of this, people with these infections are often misdiagnosed with psychiatric disorders.

Traditionally, the medical community has dismissed the fact that infections can be associated with these types of symptoms, but that is changing. A 2016 editorial in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease written by a worldwide group of 33 scientists suggested the medical community has been neglecting to look at infectious diseases as a root cause of many memory problems, including Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.

Bacteria, parasites, viruses and other infectious agents that can cause inflammation and lead to brain disorder include:

  • Streptococcus—strep throat
  • Toxoplasma gondii—a tiny single-celled parasite that is often carried in cats and shed in their feces
  • Fungal infections—commonly an overgrowth of Candida albicans, a yeast found in the mouth, gut, and genitals
  • West Nile virus—a mosquito-borne disease
  • Meningitis—inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain and spinal cord
  • Epstein-Barr virus—a member of the herpes family
  • Influenza—the common flu bug
  • Herpes viruses—one of the most common human viruses
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Syphilis
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Chlamydia pneumoniae

 

Neuropsychological Symptoms of Other Infections

Like Lyme disease, other infections can cause neuropsychological symptoms. See below for some of the common symptoms associated with streptococcus and toxoplasma gondii.

Streptococcus symptoms include:

  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Compulsive rituals
  • Overwhelming fears
  • Tics

Toxoplasma gondii symptoms include:

  • Impulsive behavior
  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Hallucinations
  • Memory problems
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts

 
 
 

The Consequences of Improper Diagnosis and Treatment

When people with undetected Lyme disease or other infections are misdiagnosed with psychiatric illnesses or cognitive dysfunction, treatments often don’t work. And in some cases, they can make symptoms worse. Without the appropriate treatment, the infection persists, causing further injury to the brain.

This can eventually lead to trouble in all areas of your life, including decreased productivity at work, poor school performance, and problems in relationships. Without the appropriate treatment, Lyme disease or other infections can steal your mind and steal your life.

For people who are not responding to treatment for their symptoms, it is very important to investigate whether an underlying infection may be contributing to the issue.

Lyme disease can be misdiagnosed as or lead to:

  • (See box above on this page.)

Streptococcus can be misdiagnosed as or lead to:

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Tourette’s syndrome

Toxoplasma gondii can be misdiagnosed as or lead to:

  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

 

“With A Better Brain Comes A Better Life”

– Daniel G. Amen, M.D.

 

About Lyme Disease & Functional Medicine

About Lyme Disease

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