Lyme Disease: The Great Imitator

Halloween is almost here and everyone is putting on their disguises. Lyme Disease, however, never gets out of disguise. Chronic Lyme Disease is painful, debilitating, and an epidemic. The condition is the fastest growing vector-borne disease in the United States and is larger than AIDS, Avian Flu, or West Nile Virus combined. And, due to a startling amount of misinformation that circulates the condition is largely misunderstood.

Receiving a diagnosis of Lyme Disease is incredibly complicated. A lack of adequate testing and awareness often leads to misdiagnosis, increasing the chances of the condition being chronic. This bacterial infection is transmitted through a tick bite, primarily deer or black-legged ticks. Once contracted Lyme Disease and its many co-infections can mimic or cause virtually any other chronic condition. For this reason, it is often referred to as the “great imitator.”

Physicians have trouble differentiating Lyme Disease from other difficult-to-diagnose multi-system diseases such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, and Somatization Disorder. People with Lyme have also been diagnosed with1:

  • ADD
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis (Rheumatoid, Reactive, Infectious, Osteoarthritis)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Depression
  • Early Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Lupus
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Thyroid Disease






Lyme Disease patients have also been misdiagnosed with a variety of other neurological, psychiatric, and medical conditions than those listed above, demonstrating the diversity of the disease.1

70% of Lyme Disease patients report that they experience changes in their thinking, such as memory loss or reduced mental capacity. Along with unexplained physiological symptoms such as high fevers, swollen nodes, sore throats, headaches or joint pain, Lyme Disease can cause the following neuropsychological conditions1:

  • Impaired focus, concentration, judgment and impulse control
  • Impaired memory or speech
  • Disorganization
  • Reduced problem-solving abilities
  • Slower processing speed
  • Symptoms similar to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia





Lyme Disease symptoms vary from stage to stage, as well as per each individual. Fewer than 50% of Lyme Disease sufferers don’t remember being bitten by a tick, and only 1 in 2 patients develop the classic “bulls-eye” rash used to identify the condition. Due to the multitude and diversity of the symptoms, relying on these telltale signs can increase the odds of a misdiagnosis.

Navigating Lyme Disease is scary, confusing, and often lonely. But, Peer Health can help. Creating a Peer Health community and connecting with relevant healthcare peers can help you find emotional support and solace. Only fellow chronic illness sufferers can truly understand your healthcare journey. Find healthcare peers just like you and join us.


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