16 Vital Facts About Lyme Disease: A National Epidemic

facts about Lyme disease
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People are talking more about Lyme disease lately. And with good reason. A bacteria called Borrelia Burgdorferi causes Lyme. The bacterium is a spiral-shaped spirochete. Try saying that 5 times fast.

But joking aside, Lyme disease is no joking matter. In fact, it’s a serious topic for any of the millions who have it or have had it. It is a world-wide disease and it has been reported in all 50 states.

So, here are 10 essential facts about Lyme disease–what you need to know:

Facts About Lyme Disease

  1. Lyme disease is a national epidemic. Over 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported each year according to the CDC. This is 10 times more than previously reported. Furthermore, Lyme is under-diagnosed and under-reported.
  2. It is called “The Great Imitator”. This is because it can mimic other conditions such as arthritis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, fibromyalgia, Bells Palsy, ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, MS, ADD, Lupus and others.
  3. Less than 50% of Lyme disease patients recall a tick bite. The ticks are often the size of a poppy seed and go undetected. (1)
  4. Less than 50% of Lyme disease patients recall a rash. Despite what you may have heard, many people never get a bulls-eye rash. Some may experience other types of rashes, but many don’t recall a rash at all. (2)
  5. Lyme disease affects 6 times more people in the U.S. than HIV/AIDS, yet it receives less than 1% of the funding. And Lyme is nearly twice as common as breast cancer. Yet insurance doesn’t cover long-term treatment for chronically ill Lyme patients. So they have to pay out-of-pocket for expensive treatments. As a result, many cannot work anymore and have lost their homes simply trying to pay for proper medical care. Something is very wrong with this picture.

    facts about Lyme disease
    Ticks can be as small as a poppy seed.
  6. According to the CDC, Lyme disease is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the U.S. Vectors include ticks, mosquitoes, flies, parasites, sandflies, fleas and freshwater snails.
  7. Anyone can get Lyme disease. But children and those with lower immune function are the among the most susceptible. People exposed to mold, parasites and systemic infection are also vulnerable.
  8. There are 5 subspecies of Borrelia Burgdorferi (the Lyme spirochete), over 100 strains in the U.S., and 300 strains worldwide. (3) And the really crazy thing is that these spirochetes are adapting to the environment. They can actually change forms to evade antibiotics. The different forms include cyst form, cell-wall-deficient form and spirochete form.
  9. The number of cases of Lyme reported annually has increased nearly 25-fold since national surveillance started in 1982. (4) And that doesn’t even include all the unreported cases.
  10. Lyme disease is transmitted by a tick bite. Ticks are everywhere. They know no borders. So if you are sick and have Lyme disease symptoms please go to a Lyme-literate doctor. Here is a link to help you find a doctor who specializes in treating patients with Lyme disease. Also, spirochetes were found in mosquitoes and horse flies, according to Willie Burgdorfer, the man who discovered Lyme disease. However, they don’t yet know the rate of transmission. (5)
  11.  The most commonly given test for Lyme is the ELISA test. But, it is unreliable and misses 35% of culture-proven Lyme disease. (6) Currently, the most sensitive test is the IgG and ImG Western Blot tests, available through IGeneX Lab in Palo Alto. www.igenex.com.
  12. People who often spend time outdoors are more likely to get Lyme. If you spend time working outside in the grass or woods apply a tick-repellent before going out. And make sure to be extra vigilant to check for ticks when you come inside. Also it’s best to remove your clothes as soon as you come in and wash and dry them. Finally, check thoroughly for ticks before taking a shower. This may sound like a lot of work, but it’s so much better than the alternative.
  13. Test for other tick-borne illnesses too. Examples of these co-infections include: Babesia, Tularemia, Anaplasma, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain Spotted Tick Fever and Ehrlichia. If any of these or others are present and left untreated it reduces the chances of successful Lyme disease treatment. (7)
  14. No studies show 30 days of antibiotic treatment cure chronic Lyme disease. According to ilads.org, “Short treatment courses have resulted in upwards of a 40% relapse rate, especially if treatment is delayed.” (8)
  15. When first getting bit, common symptoms include: flu-like symptoms, headaches, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, muscle pain, vision problems, nausea, loss of appetite, swollen glands, rashes, neck stiffness and pain, trouble sleeping, chills, sweats. In addition, you may want to read The Signs, Symptoms And Stages Of Lyme Disease for more details.   
  16. Lyme can cause long-term complications when it’s untreated. And, unfortunately, the average Lyme disease patient sees 5 different doctors over the course of about 2 years before being diagnosed. This was my experience too. By this time, the disease has done tremendous damage to the body and patients often end up having long-term health problems. (9)  At this point it is called Chronic Lyme Disease, or sometimes called Late Persistent Lyme Disease. Symptoms include:
  • Extreme exhaustion not relieved by sleeping or resting
  • Inability to control facial muscles
  • Heart problems, such as pericarditis
  • Tingling and numbness of the hands and feet
  • Arthritis, often in the larger joints, such as the knees
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Confusion
    facts about Lyme disease
    Failure to treat Lyme promptly can cause damage to the brain, joints and nervous system. This is the most serious stage, Chronic Lyme Disease, or Late Persistent Lyme Disease
  • Difficulty thinking or reasoning
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Getting lost in familiar places
  • Anxiety, panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Tremor
  • Sensitivity to sound, light and smells
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Mood swings, depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Migrating joint and muscle pain
  • Vertigo
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Vision difficulties
  • Weight gain or loss
  • “Air hunger”
  • Pain in the chest or ribs
  • “Heart block”
  • Neck pain, stiffness and cracking
  • Night sweats
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Heart murmur or valve prolapse
  • Light-headedness, dizziness
  • Menstrual irregularity

The Takeaway

In summary, Lyme disease is a serious, debilitating disease. And it’s essential to know the facts. Most of all, I hope this has helped you learn more about Lyme disease so you can protect yourself and your family.

Do you know anyone with Lyme disease?

Please share your thoughts and experiences below. I love hearing from you!

Also, for more about Lyme disease you may want to check out:

Finally, the information provided in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to treat, prevent, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem.

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  1. It is definitely an epidemic. Growing up I never heard of Lyme and we never used bug spray unless in the deep woods. Today, we don’t play anywhere without precaution.

  2. This is such a scary disease and it sounds as though it’s very much on the increase. I’ve heard of it before but don’t know anyone who has it. Thanks so much for sharing and helping to raise awareness.

  3. We need to be aware of this disease, we don’t know how hard it is for other people who are suffering from it. Sending lots of love!

    1. I love spending time outdoors too…I don’t want to cause undue worry, just want people to be aware. 🙂 Lyme is preventable, so using tick repellent and checking for ticks when you come back inside are some effective strategies for helping to keep your family safe. Thanks!

  4. I’ve always known that it’s a threat and that you should definitely make sure that you’re safe from it, but I never knew the depth of Lyme disease and all the facts. This is really informative!

  5. It is actually crazy how many people I know who have lyme disease and how long it took for them to be diagnosed. It is definitely something that needs more awareness, because it is preventable!

    1. Wow, I really hate to hear this! I’m so sorry your friends have been through this too. Unfortunately it’s happening way too often.

      And you’re right – it is preventable. I’m ready for all the needless suffering to stop! We’re seeing some movement in the right direction, like the CDC coming out a couple of years ago, admitting to drastic under-reporting of the disease. But SO much more needs to be done in the areas of diagnostic practices, increased funding for research, increasing the length of treatments and some doctors accepting that Lyme is everywhere. (stepping down off my soapbox, for now)

      I’m so thankful that there are some awesome doctors out there who are educated on the facts about Lyme and care deeply about helping Lyme patients heal.

  6. Lyme disease is so scary to me! There have been reported cases in our area and we’ve had a couple bad tick years. My family thinks I’m a little neurotic about checking for ticks, but I feel I have good reason! Thanks for sharing these Lyme disease facts with us.

  7. I think it is great that you took the time to really explain this disease. I had no idea what it was about at all, and as a pre-med student, I the knowledge I have gained from this post is great.

  8. I feel like this is something that everyone has heard of, but not a lot of people know a lot about. I think it is great that you are spreading more information so people can be more aware of this disease.

    1. I think you’re exactly right that people have heard of Lyme but aren’t necessarily familiar with what is actually is. This was me before I got it. Thank you, Jessica.

  9. Lyme disease should be something that we pay more attention to especially since it can be really dangerous.I didn’t know that it received so little funding! That’s alarming to say the least.

    1. I agree completely, Karen. The prevalence of Lyme has been minimized for far too long and it’s really devastating when not treated. It is alarming and impacting so many people right now. Something has to change.

  10. This is really terrifying. I was diagnosed with Lyme disease at 20. And I was given an antibiotic and it went away. I did have to breath with an inhaler for a while because my breathing had become compromised. But I didn’t know much about Lyme back then and am always overcome by how horrible it can be. I guess I was really lucky.

    1. It truly is….I’m so thankful you were treated promptly and were able to overcome Lyme, Erica. For several years I had shortness of breath due to the Lyme. It was like I could never catch my breath…I’m not sure if this is the same as what you experienced. At any rate, I’m so glad your body was able to heal!

  11. This is so informative. It’s so important as you know to help educate people. Thanks for collecting all the right info here.

  12. We live in a really woody area and this is my biggest fear. This is the number one thing we always search for whenever we go outside to play.

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