April 25, 2005


LYME SUFFERERS RECLAIM LIVES: Knowledge lets them fight tick-borne illness (Joan Morris, 4/25/05, CONTRA COSTA TIMES)

Although doctors in the early 20th century recognized Lyme disease -- called erythema migrans -- as a bacterial infection spread by ticks, it wasn't until the early 1980s that researchers got a firm grasp on how the disease progresses. But more than 25 years later, the disease often remains undiagnosed and misunderstood. And even though antibiotics can be effective, some cases require years of treatment.

In the United States, an average of about 23,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, but researchers estimate that the number of people who actually have the disease and don't know it is far greater. More than half of those who have been diagnosed with the disease have no recollection of having been bitten, and many did not develop what doctors consider the telltale sign of the illness, a red rash.

The symptoms of Lyme disease are many and varied, and shared by a number of other common ailments. Is it the flu or is it Lyme disease? By the time a patient sees a doctor and gets a diagnosis, precious time has been lost.

What's maddening for those involved in treatment and education, is that if caught early, Lyme disease often can be successfully treated with a strong course of antibiotics. If administered within 72 hours of exposure, chances for a full recovery are excellent.

One problem, says Sheri Miller of Walnut Creek, is that even when patients go to doctors for immediate treatment, their concerns can be dismissed. Miller, who with Selvig is part of the East Bay Lyme Disease Support Group, recommends patients seek "Lyme literate" doctors -- physicians who are especially knowledgeable about the disease and treatments.

"Some doctors," Miller says, "are still telling patients we don't have Lyme disease in California."

Although the disease is more prevalent on the East Coast, where about 25 percent of deer ticks carry the disease, California has a number of cases each year. About 5 percent of deer ticks can carry the bacteria that causes the disease. [...]

For more info

• LymeDisease.org

• LymeGroups.org/EastBay

• igenex.com

• ilads.org

• www.lyme.org

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 25, 2005 8:29 AM
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