Getting Rid of Lyme Disease

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Early Stage Lyme Disease Treatment

If Lyme Disease is diagnosed within the first few weeks after infection and treated with antibiotics for long enough, it can frequently be cured. Unfortunately, there’s no general agreement on what “long enough” means. Most doctors prescribe an antibiotic for two to three weeks, four weeks tops. Often this is not enough.

Here’s why: The Borrelia bacteria can exist three ways in the body – as spirochetes traveling around in the bloodstream, in cell-wall deficient form hitching a ride inside red blood cells, or as cysts hiding where antibiotics are unlikely to reach them. Since it takes four months (120 days) for red blood cells to be completely replaced, any cell-wall deficient Lyme not killed in a few weeks (14-30 days) are free to replicate and cause more harm. Encysted Lyme can also reactivate.

Traditional Lyme Treatment

pillsbottle1The most common oral antibiotics prescribed for Lyme are doxycycline or minocycline for adults and amoxicillin for pregnant women and children. Erythromycin, azythromycin, and clarithromycin (Biaxin) are also used, usually in combination with another drug. Ceftin or Suprax are used orally, or Rocephin and Claforan intravenously. Flagyl is used for the cystic form. Medication choice depends on a number of personal and health factors. Typically antibiotic therapy needs to be changed from time to time when a patient reaches a plateau in recovery.

People whose symptoms don’t go away or get worse after 2-4 weeks of antibiotic treatment may have other infections as well. A large number of Lyme patients have Babesia, Bartonella, and/or Ehrlichia. Various strains of mycoplasma and chlamydia may be also be present. Furthermore, any of the 8 herpes viruses humans get, including Epstein Barr virus and Cytomegalovirus, can be reactivated.

The immune system can usually get rid of co-infections if Lyme is treated early when their load is typically low. Otherwise, full-blown co-infections further complicate the healing process. Many of these infections are immunosuppressive, meaning they weaken the immune system so it can’t work properly. Lyme won’t go away until co-infections are also treated.

Many Lyme patients understandably worry about using long-term antibiotics. Overusing antibiotics can harm the body and lead to drug-resistant bacteria. However, most Lyme-literate doctors will tell you that the effects of being on antibiotics for a long time are minimal compared to the crippling disability and most-certain death if Lyme and co-infections are not treated.

The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) has been at the forefront of Lyme education and treatment since 1999. In 2004 they published their evidence-based, peer-reviewed Lyme disease guidelines.  Another group, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), offers far more conservative guidelines. Unfortunately an ongoing political battle between these two medical groups makes getting treated effectively for Lyme very difficult.

Download the ILADS guidelines here and read a summary of the IDSA guidelines. Download the full IDSA guidelines here.

Alternative Lyme Disease Treatment

There are many alternative, non-antibiotic treatments for Lyme, with new ones popping up regularly. Some Lyme patients have reported success with alternative therapies, but it’s wise to do your homework before heading in this direction.  Many of these modalities are experimental and not medically certified for Lyme; they could ultimately be harmful or even fatal.  If you want to use alternative treatments, make sure you do it with the supervision of a qualified medical professional.

Some of the more popular therapies, in alphabetical order (not a comprehensive list) are:

Acupuncture, andrographis, aromatherapy, artemisia, bee venom, Chinese herbs, cat’s claw, colloidal silver, colonics, colostrum, cranial sacral therapy, dietary changes, digestive enzymes, far-infrared sauna, garlic, glutathione, grapefruit seed extract, homeopathy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, Japanese knotwood, liquid oxygen, lymphatic drainage, olive leaf extract, ozone therapy, resveratrol, Rife machine, salt and Vitamin C, spilanthes, Swedish sauna, tai chi, and various combinations of vitamins and minerals.

Many doctors use both antibiotics and alternative therapies to treat Lyme.

Lyme Detox

Since spirochetal bacteria release toxins when they die (unlike other bacterial infections), dead Lyme can cause as much trouble leaving the body as when they’re alive. Detoxification can overtax the organs responsible for clean up – the liver, intestinal tract, and kidneys, especially if it happens too fast.

Many people call the uncomfortable but normal side effects of Lyme detox a “healing crisis,” “flare up,” or “die-off.” The more technical name is Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction.

This reaction (also called Herxheimer or Herx for short) is named for two European dermatologists working independently at the turn of the 20th century on the treatment of syphilis (also a spirochete). Adolf Jarisch, an Austrian, first reported this treatment reaction to in 1895. Karl Herxheimer a German, followed in 1902.

A Herxheimer reaction can include headache, swollen glands, skin lesions, joint or muscle pain, chills, cold hands and feet, excessive perspiration, low-grade fever, a rise or drop in blood pressure, nausea, constipation or diarrhea, itching, hives and rash. Other symptoms have also been reported.

If the Herxheimer lasts more than a few hours, it may be necessary to decrease or temporarily stop treatment until it goes away. Sometimes hives and rash are mistaken for an allergic reaction to the drugs being used. Close follow-up by a qualified medical professional is therefore a must to help manage the erratic course that Lyme treatment typically takes.

For Late Stage Lyme, see our post on Chronic Lyme for more information on what happens if Lyme isn’t treated or isn’t treated adequately and symptoms persist beyond 6 months.

How quickly a person heals from chronic Lyme Disease depends on many factors, including:

  • how long they’ve had it
  • how serious their symptoms are
  • how their body reacts to treatment
  • their financial resources
  • the state of their mind and emotions
  • the quality of support they get from others

In a nutshell, healing Lyme can be a frustrating, depressing, and lonely road. Lyme is like no other infectious disease we’ve known before. Those who have it and those closest to them should take Lyme very seriously.

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290 Responses to “Getting Rid of Lyme Disease”

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  1. Melissa Says:

    My husband has a coworker whose wife has been suffering for years with the lyme disease. She has found the only treatment to be helpful is the PICC iv antibotics. The only problem is the insurance will not cover the medications and it is very costly. Is there anywhere to get help with the cost of these medications in the Peoria Illinois area. Please Help!

    Reply

  2. Pam Dodd Says:

    Bob, many people with Lyme also get one or more other infections when they’re bitten by an infected tick. You can also get Ehrlichia, either independently or with Lyme, from other biting insects, especially mosquitoes. It sounds like you haven’t been treated adequately for either. Two to four weeks of an antibiotic is not enough to get rid of these infections, so if that’s the treatment you had, you still have them. You’re not nuts. You’re just sick.

    If you tell me where you live, I’ll send you info on how to find a Lyme specialists who knows how to diagnose and treat these infections correctly. Thanks for asking.

    Reply

    • Jane Says:

      I’m in Syracuse, NY & found a tick Monday. Was in Saratoga Springs Sunday, anther person found a tick too. Because of allergens to meds, prescribed two z-packs. Not thinking that’s enough. Any help on MD in area is appreciated.

      Reply

      • Pam Dodd Says:

        You’re probably right, Jane. NY Lyme info is on its way. Thanks for asking.

  3. Bob R. Says:

    Hello fellow Lymeies, can anyone tell me if Ehrilichia Chaffeensis comes from Lyme or the opposite. I was hospitalized with E/C in ’08 (that was a nightmare, no DR. knew what it was). I also had Lyme a few yrs. before. I still feel crappy 90% of the time (now they tell me I’m depressed). Since then I also have been diagnosed with neuropathy. I feel that the E/C and or Lyme is still with me. Is this possible? Thank’s for a great site. I know I’m not alone (60yo, WM been about 8 yrs now with the Lyme).

    Reply

  4. denise Says:

    I have been trying to find the best way to heal from this disease that had created so many awful symptoms and changed my life, hopefully not forever. 2 1/2 yrs ago blood tested positive. Started w/13 months of antibiotics. I stopped to go to a naturopath. I went and felt a little better for 11 months but the cost was about $800- $1000 month so i stopped. Now I went for more blood wrk and tested negative, this was from a new infectious disease dr who wants to treat with rocephin. Because of the neg test, the insurence wont pay. Plus I was told the picc line doesn’t do much for chronic lyme. Is that true? If not is there a way to get my insurance co to pay?

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Denise, there’s no way to get your insurance company to pay if they base their decision on a positive Lyme test. Lyme tests are unreliable, especially after you’ve had some treatment. You could try the IGeneX test, which is more accurate. But it costs $400. Another $600 if you also do the co-infections tests (Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis). You don’t say if you’ve been tested for them. Most people with Lyme have at least one.

      FYI – most people with chronic Lyme don’t get rid of it only with naturopathy. A PICC line with Rocephin is used by many LLMDs. I know chronically ill Lymies who’ve done it, with mixed results. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

      • Paula Says:

        Hi – I had Lyme symtoms last summer — negative test result but positive for two bands. Was treated with one 30 days course of anti-biotics then symptoms quickly reemerged and did another 30 day course. Also, worked with an integrative doctor and cleaned the gut, and reworked diet and added probiotics, Omegas and some other practical pieces. I occasionally have a resurge of symptoms like, heart palpiations, ringing in my ears and throat pain — usually off things. I know intuitively that these are Lyme related and they surface when i am very stressed.
        I have a bare bones insurance plan and am trying to locate affordable resources. Any suggestions? I am concerned that the two rounds of antibiotics were not enough eventhough my PCP and the infectious disease doc denied that possibility.

      • Pam Dodd Says:

        Paula, you’re right. Two 30-day rounds of antibiotics is rarely enough to get rid of Lyme. You should also be tested for the co-infections that also come with Lyme (Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, and Anaplasmosis). If you tell me where you live, I’ll send info on how to find a Lyme specialist in your area. Thanks for asking.

  5. Jennifer Says:

    Does anyone know of any lyme literate doctors in the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area? I am at my last rope on this and am pretty positive I have chronic lymes. Also is it true that the tests are not always acurate. Had one positive for babesia (1/2048) and one negative. Desperatly wanting to know of a good doctor in the EC area as I am tired of traveling and paying medical expenses to be told there is nothing wrong with me and I just have anxiety and panic. I know myself and there is something else going on for sure. Thank you to whomever helps me out. I have like 30 symptoms (some debilitating)and did have a rash back in May of 2011.

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Jennifer, I’m sending you WI Lyme info so you can find a Lyme specialist. If there isn’t one in Eau Claire, I’d recommend travelling. It’s worth it to see someone who knows how to diagnose Lyme correctly (yes, the standard tests most doctors use are inaccurate) and treat it adequately if you have it. Hold on! Help is available. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  6. Kendra Says:

    I’ve been having non stop muscle spasms all over my body for about a month now. Blood work just came back saying i have elevated levels of Ehrlichia bacteria. I was bitten by a tick 10 years ago with no rash or any symptoms after. Could this still be lymes disease?? I live in Albany New York could you please send me info about a specialist in my area? Thank you so much

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Kendra, yes, you could now have symptoms of Lyme, Ehrlichia, and possibly other Lyme co-infections from a bite 10 years ago. I’m sending NY Lyme info so you can find a doctor who knows how to treat Lyme adequately. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  7. Martha Says:

    Hello I’ve been dealing with a variety of symptoms for nearly two years now. First started with fever, chills, night sweats,
    Progressing slowly into muscle weakness, dizziness and breathing problems. Symtom all seem to be neurological. I’ve had many labs done,Mri, have spent thousands of dollars on treatments with no answers or results. Chinese medicine, chiropractors, nutritionist. Recently my G.P decided it was time to see a neurologist to rule out M.S for the second time. I’m very frustrated with my situation. My husband and I wanted to start a family but with my health issues I’m very afraid. Please help me find a Lyme Dr in the San Diego area. Hopefully I can find some answers. Thank you much.

    Reply

  8. Jeff Says:

    Hi, our 9 year old son is currently on the 30 day treatment for Lyme. He did not have a visible rash but displayed many symptoms. We spent many visits to the pediatrician’s office and orthopedic doctor because of joint pain in his right knee and hip. After many visits, I suggested the Lyme test, of which the results were positive.

    Thank you for providing valuable information to the public.

    Can you please send me information on Lyme specialist in the Bel Air, Md area?

    Reply

  9. Kim Says:

    Hi Pam,

    Thanks for this very helpful information! I’m pretty sure that I have Lyme–numbness and swelling in face, swollen lymph nodes in neck, conjunctivitis, hair loss, heart palpitations and chest pain, aching back…the list keeps going.

    I never had the bulls-eye rash, and it was easy to write off a few mild symptoms until I had numbness and swelling in my cheek. It seemed like an abscess and a failed root canal.

    Had some antibiotics and another root canal on the tooth. Was feeling mostly better until today, when the swollen/numb face came back fast. Doctor couldn’t find anything and said I should follow up with the endodontist. I have a nagging feeling that the problem is bigger than just teeth, and some searching led me to you.

    Do you have names for any Lyme literate doctors in the Albany, NY area?

    Reply

  10. Bruce F Says:

    Hi Pam. We live on the island of Kauai, Hawaii.

    Our son has been attending high school in New Hampshire and shows symptoms of Lyme disease.

    Do you know of any doctors on Kauai, or in Hawaii, who have expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of Lymes?

    Thanks, Bruce

    Reply

  11. Frank Says:

    Hello, Could you send me what Lyme doctor list you have for Maryland. We’re in the Gaithersburg, MD area.

    My toddler was treated as if she had lyme, although the pediatrician wasn’t entirely certain, with 21 days of amoxicillin (chewable tablets). Had to fight for it, as they originally were just “comfortable” giving her 14 days. We have been done with the meds for a couple weeks, but now a rash is back. She never had the typical bull’s eye rash to begin with, and this new rash is not one either, which makes things harder to diagnose, of course. She also has no other symptoms of which we are aware, but for the mysterious rash.

    Wondering if she should go through another (precautionary) course of antibiotics or not. She has no other symptoms (that we are aware of) other than the rash (from waist area down the legs). It’s just that it could be a contact dermatitis rash (we recently took a 2 day each way holiday roadtrip), a spider bite and reaction, an allergy to oxyclean/detergent, etc… Who knows, but it is awfully suspicious of another non-descript lyme rash (or soemthing) associated with the tick bite like she had back in mid November (a non-engorged, male deer tick, removed within 4 or so hrs of biting).

    It was quite a challenge for a 2 1/2 year old to take meds 3x a day for a month, and I just want to consult someone who is versed in Lyme before she has to go on more meds.

    Thanks for what you do and God bless.

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      I agree, Frank. A consultation with a doctor who knows Lyme well would be helpful. I’m sending MD info so you can find someone who knows what they’re doing, especially with young children. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  12. ami Says:

    Hi Pam –

    I recently went to a new PCP, my husbands doc. cause I had been feeling off for several weeks – it was the holiday season so I thought I was just run down from being so busy, but I had more symptoms then that. Feeling excessively thirsty/hungry, brain fog, feeling like my blood sugar levels were on a roller coaster ride (almost thought I had diabetes), sinusitis that didn’t get better with nasal spray, of course exhausted, fatigued and weird occasional headache – all that would not go away with Tylenol. He did a series of blood work, I had no idea he tested for Lyme until he said it came back positive, and it is a new positive, that I probably got it in th last few weeks. So he has put me on 28 days of Doxy. Now that I think back it could have been to a recent visit to my parents house that has a high deer tick population or our Christmas Tree had them cause I found a tick on our carpet one day – but I never got the rash. Can you send me Lyme info in the NYC, Lower Westchester, NY and CT area. Thank you.

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      NY/CT Lyme info coming up, Ami. Sorry 2012 is starting this way for you. Hopefully you’ll find out what you’ve got. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  13. Mike Says:

    can anyone provide dr’s that treat Lyme in atlanta, ga area.

    Reply

  14. Jeanne W Says:

    I have had abullseye rash on my stomach for about a week and a half. It looks exactly like the picture of tache noire.
    Do I have to go to a special dr. or is my primary care sufficient?
    I live in Spring Hill, Fl. Do you know of any doctors in Hernando or Pasco County?
    Thanks

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      A bull’s-eye rash means Lyme, Jeanne. Most PCPs know little or nothing about how to diagnose Lyme correctly and treat it adequately. I’m sending FL Lyme info so you can find a Lyme doctor. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  15. Susan Says:

    Hi Pam,

    I tested neg to 3 tick diseases in Aug after a 3 day fever, headache and joint pain. After 3 weeks on doxycycline symptoms left but a hot red rash on my arms and legs started to appear and has continued intermittently since then. Also I am experiencing a debilitating fatigue. Although I have CLL and an IgA deficiency, this fatigue is much worse than anything I have experienced before. Nothing unusual in my blood counts at this time to explain this. Any good Lyme doctors in Rhode island that I could see?

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Good idea to check out your continuing symptoms with a Lyme doctor, Susan. RI info is on its way. Thanks for asking. Let us know what you find out.

      Reply

      • Tzne Says:

        Hi Pam. We are in Bethesda Md and considering seeing one of the following doctors: [3 doctors’ names removed]. Whole family is positive Lyme and Babesia and has been in treatment for a year, but with mixed results. I would love any feedback or reviews on these 3 well known doctors, to help us decide where to go. Thank you!

      • Pam Dodd Says:

        Tzne, sorry I can’t give you feedback here on the three doctors you mentioned. It’s an online convention not to publish Lyme doctors’ names to protect them from harassment by their state medical boards for the “unorthodox” treatment of Lyme. I’m sending you DC Lyme info so you can contact Lyme advocates in the area to ask there. They should be a big help. Thanks for asking.

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