Summer is here! Warm, sunny days; cool, comfy nights; more time spent outdoors…introducing the potential for a greater exposure to tick bites. Tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease can make the fun of summer for you, your children, and your pets come to a screeching halt. Don’t let those little carriers create a big problem for your family’s good time.
A Little Critter with a Big Impact
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks—small, parasitic, spider-like creatures who feed on the blood of their host. If a tick is infected with a disease, it can infect the person or animal it bites. Lyme disease, which is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, is just one of several infectious diseases that ticks can spread.
The early symptoms of Lyme disease can feel like a flu, complete with fever, fatigue and aches and pains. Although common with Lyme, not everyone infected will have the characteristic “bullseye” rash that develops around the site of the tick bite. When treated promptly with antibiotics, most cases of Lyme disease will resolve within a few weeks. However, due to its flu-like symptoms Lyme disease is often not diagnosed right away, and if it goes undetected, chronic problems can.
Once the bacteria have spread throughout the body, even an extended course of antibiotics may not be able to get rid of it initially. Long-term Lyme symptoms may appear similar to those of other chronic inflammatory, autoimmune, or neurological conditions such as fibromyalgia, Bell’s palsy, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, or PTSD. In extreme cases, Lyme disease may cause shoulder, hip, and knee pain; fatigue; and other symptoms so severe that people can’t go about their regular daily routine.
Stages of Lyme Disease
When early detection occurs, the Western medical approach of using antibiotics can often resolve Lyme disease within a few to several weeks. However, if the infectious disease is not found soon enough, Lyme disease will progress to more advanced stages. Traditional Chinese Medicine—TCM—methods can be helpful during all three stages of Lyme.
1 First-Stage Lyme
Within the first few weeks of the infection and with early detection, antibiotics can be very helpful, working rather well to stop the spread of the bacteria. However, because Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed, many people do not receive this treatment soon enough. During this phase, the symptoms are akin to those of the flu, including chills, fatigue, and heaviness in the limbs, and as the infection moves in deeper it can cause the skin rash or hives. TCM treatment during the first stage will focus on relieving heat and detoxifying the body to rid it of infection.
If the spread of bacteria-causing Lyme disease is not halted quickly, it begins to affect the organs and blood. The central nervous system and heart can become infected, and these infections can last for months. If they are not addressed, they can develop into the third phase.
3 Advanced-Stage Lyme Disease
In this advanced stage, a person may begin to feel joint aches and arthritis-like symptoms. The body’s blood and Qi—the life force behind TCM—become deficient and as the infection drags on, this can cause joint, skin, and nerve damage. Ongoing Qi and blood deficiency and stagnation can cause fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, and memory loss. At this stage, treatment with acupuncture and herbs will work to help boost the Qi, relieve heat and inflammation, and strengthen the entire immune system.
Fighting Lyme with TCM
Dealing with a complicated illness like Lyme disease is challenging, and a process of discovery and commitment may be necessary. Working with a provider of traditional Chinese medicine gives patients the benefits of a multi-faceted, holistic way of addressing multiple symptoms, both physical and emotional. Acupuncture for infectious diseases such as Lyme considers each patient’s individual concerns and addresses the many complex symptoms of Lyme disease.
Guljan Nurmuradova is a board-certified acupuncturist through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and is licensed by the state of Connecticut. She trained at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science University, graduating with a Master of Acupuncture degree. Her focus is on providing her patients with thorough, individualized, and comprehensive care, treating a variety of conditions and symptoms. Guljan delights in her work and is fully committed to helping people feel their best. She believes in working compassionately with patients to give them comfort, hope, and empowerment through TCM.