The CDC reports that doctors diagnose an estimated 300,000 Lyme disease cases annually across America. It affects 10 times more people than experts thought. Some believe the true case number could reach 2 million. Most people think that recovering from this tick-borne illness is quick and easy, usually only requiring just one doctor’s appointment and a short round of antibiotics. But a new study found that a resulting prolonged illness is surprisingly pervasive, serious, and expensive.
Investigating Post-Treatment Phase Problems
Johns Hopkins scientists assessed claims data on about 47 million people with commercial medical insurance from 2006 to 2010. They analyzed 52,795 Lyme disease cases in people younger than 65 who’d received antibiotic treatments within 30 days of their test orders and/or diagnoses. The researchers compared that data to almost 264,000 similar subjects without Lyme disease exposure.
They found that Doxycycline treatment helps resolve early infection signs rapidly and prevents most symptoms that arise later. Yet numerous patients report that their symptoms last weeks, months, or even years after completing their first oral antibiotic regimen. Persistent complaints include musculoskeletal pain, thinking and memory problems, and fatigue. And after weeks to months, this untreated disease might cause lifelong debilitating rheumatic and neurologic conditions.
According to the CDC, an estimated 10 to 20 percent of Lyme disease patients treated with antibiotics for the recommended 14 to 28 days continue to experience bothersome symptoms. But this new study found that over 63 percent of treated subjects received one or more ongoing diagnoses. That’s 36 percent more than disease-free controls.
The researchers determined that America’s medical costs for Lyme disease range from $712 million to $1.3 billion per year. Compared to the control group, sick subjects went to 87 percent more doctors’ appointments and had 71 percent more emergency room visits during the year after their diagnoses, costing an average of $2,968. After finishing the initial antibiotic treatment phase, they incur these expenses for multiple tests and additional treatments due to unrelenting symptoms.
Lyme disease patients were almost five times more liable to have unremitting symptoms including fatigue, nerve and joint pain, and cognitive problems. Their likelihood of receiving an excessive fatigue and debility diagnosis was 5.5 times that of corresponding controls. The researchers associated Lyme disease patients who also experienced at least one perpetual diagnosis with an additional $3,798 of health care expenses, compared with Lyme subjects who didn’t suffer from prolonged effects.
Spotting Lyme Disease
Any small tick with a Borrelia burgdorferi bacterial infection that bites you can spread Lyme disease. After attaching itself to your skin, it feeds off your blood and transfers the bacteria into your bloodstream. This illness got is name for the Connecticut town where the medical community identified it first in 1975. Today, its peak months are June through July. While cases have occurred in all 50 states, it’s most prevalent on America’s East Coast from Maine down to Virginia.
Infected ticks cause skin reactions resembling spider bites or bulls-eye rashes in 68 percent of cases. But you may not notice it in some bodily locations like behind your ear. Initial symptoms mimic the flu including fever, chills, joint and muscle pains, and swollen glands. Symptom confusion and false negatives on Lyme disease tests can be problematic. If misdiagnosis leads to improper or absent treatment, your symptoms can worsen and expand to include heart palpitations, dizzy spells, disorientation, numbness, arthritis, irregular heart rhythms, and Bell’s palsy.
Dr. Nancy Snyderman recommends outdoor activity preventative efforts including wear light clothing and tucking your pants into your socks. When you come indoors, put your clothes in the dryer because its dehydrated heat can kill ticks that will survive in your washing machine. Also trade off doing tick checks on other people. Removing a tick with tweezers within 24 hours of attachment can decrease your infection risk greatly. If possible, take the tick to your doctor immediately for Lyme disease testing and antibiotic treatment.
Promoting Ongoing Disease Management
Lyme disease’s long-lasting aftermath is controversial among physicians. Some refer to its continuing symptoms as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) or chronic Lyme disease. Other doctors aren’t sure that Lyme disease might become a chronic and severe illness requiring more than symptomatic therapy and reassurance.
Some clinicians attribute patients’ fatigue, headache, and memory problem complaints to the drudgery of daily living while blaming advancing age for pains and aches. Patients and physicians may mistake Lyme disease symptoms for various multi-system, hard-to-diagnose illnesses including ALS, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
Lead author Dr. John Aucott says that debating the authenticity of Lyme disease’s long-term health problems is pointless when patients are suffering from debilitating illnesses. He believes that increasing the awareness of its possible complications is vital to avoid unnecessary medical tests and misdiagnoses. Even though this condition is challenging, Aucott says that recognizing it as a real problem is paramount. And despite what you call this ailment, fellow researcher Emily Adrion contends that effective, cost-efficient, and compassionate disease management is necessary to upgrade patients’ outcomes.