The Dangers of Misdiagnosing Lyme Disease & using Unproven Treatments

Lyme Disease is a condition that is fairly well-known. With cases continuing to rise across the United States over the past few years, many are wondering if Lyme disease is being correctly diagnosed. We know that Lyme Disease is caused by an infection from a specific tick and the symptoms vary and usually appear in stages. We can look for skin lesions, fever, headaches and fatigue symptoms. There is also a specific recommended treatment for Lyme Disease that is a 2 to 4-week course of antibiotics. But are the treatments successful?

…and what about chronic Lyme disease? Does it even exist?

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it seems that medical professionals don’t even know themselves. Each organization is creating its own definition and therefore, creating treatments for this so-called chronic disease. Some medical professionals are using the term to describe left-over symptoms of Lyme Disease and others are using it to describe patients with a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, generalized pain and neurological symptoms. Without evidence of the patient actually having been infected by the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, this can lead to a string of issues.

So what is the issue and what are the potential dangers of misdiagnosing chronic Lyme disease?

Patients who have been misdiagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease are being given various treatments that have been found to be ineffective in many cases. Not only are the treatments ineffective, but also they can cause harm. In many cases, patients who have been misdiagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease end up experiencing worse symptoms than before, including continued pain, the need to be admitted to intensive care and in some cases, death. Long term use of antibiotics also carries increased risks but these risks increase even more when the antibiotics are not necessary in the first place. In conclusion, misdiagnosing Chronic Lyme Disease can have serious consequences.

In the past three years, there has been an increase in the scope of treatments for Chronic Lyme Disease. This means that more general symptoms are placed under the Chronic Lyme Disease umbrella and therefore, more and more people are receiving intensive and expensive treatments for something that they might not even have.

Another issue with misdiagnosing the disease is that medical professionals are missing the actual cause of the patient’s symptoms and allowing for a different potential disease to go undiagnosed. It may be useful to find a physician who is “Lyme Literate” to make a more accurate diagnosis. In this case, sometimes a second opinion is not such a bad idea as well as talking with your support group on Peer Health who may have already been in your shoes.


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Photo by Alison Stevens on Unsplash

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