In many ways, borreliosis is like syphilis. Both of the germs that cause syphilis and borreliosis are called spirochetes (spiral-shaped bacteria). Before penicillin was discovered, doctors called syphilis “a great imitator” because syphilis can imitate or mimic virtually any disease. Likewise, borreliosis often mimics other diseases. This is one of the key points of this website. Borreliosis can cause any symptom and any disease. People who have not been healthy need to consider this infection as a possibility if they are trying to find the cause of their medical problems.
When the initial bacterial infection occurs after a tick bite, people may develop a rash and experience a flu-like illness. Often the rash is a red ring resembling a bulls-eye, but occasionally the rash may be red all the way across. The key is whether the rash enlarges or gets bigger, not if it is a red ring or solid red. The proper name of the borreliosis rash is erythema migrans, erythema meaning red and migrans meaning the rash migrates or enlarges. In my opinion, a tick bite followed by a rash that enlarges and/or a flu-like illness is borreliosis until proven otherwise.
Borreliosis patients with a chronic infection most commonly have pain, tiredness, brain or thinking problems, blurry vision and neurological (nerve) problems. Remember, the borreliosis bacteria may cause virtually any symptom or disease. In addition to other symptoms, borreliosis patients usually also have hypercoagulation (thrombophilia), endocrinopathies (hormone deficiencies), toxic metal elevations, deficiencies of essential amino acids and essential fatty acids, and also vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Borreliosis patients are usually low in iodine, have allergies, dead infected bone (osteonecrosis) in the jaw and may have chemical sensitivities. (These topics are addressed in other sections of this website.)
Pain is the number one problem for those with borreliosis. Not all patients have pain, but most do. Any part of the body can hurt, including the head, neck, eyes, ears, jaw, arms, hands, chest, abdomen, back, legs, feet, muscles and joints. This pain is sometimes worse than pain caused by surgery! Morphine may not help.
Tiredness or fatigue is the second most common symptom of borreliosis. If you divided the pain symptoms into specific categories such as headache or joint pain, then fatigue would become the number one symptom. This tiredness has often been misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. It can be so severe that the fatigue is described as complete exhaustion. Many are so tired that they lose their jobs and cannot help at home. They may also attempt a minor physical activity like walking to the mailbox or taking out the trash and become so tired that they have to go to bed.
The third most common symptom is brain or cognitive problems. Common symptoms or diseases include memory loss, decreased mental concentration, mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, panic disorder, manic-depressive illness (bipolar), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), paranoia, schizophrenia, and “brain fog”.
Blurry vision is the fourth most common symptom in borreliosis, but that is with combining all of the various pains together and all of the brain or thinking problems together. The bacteria can inflame any part of the eye (causing conjunctivitis, iritis, uveitis, retinitis and optic neuritis), so having blurry vision as a common symptom is not surprising.
Finally, there are the neurological symptoms. Neurological borreliosis is also known as neuroborreliosis. Patients may experience numbness, tingling, burning, twitching, jerking, and muscle weakness. In addition, they may have seizures, and multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig disease) encephalitis, meningitis, stroke and dementia. As one neurologist who specializes in borreliosis put it, “The chapter on neurological Lyme disease is still being written.” As I stated earlier, borreliosis is like syphilis and may imitate or mimic any disease, including neurological disorders.
In addition to the above symptoms, there are “red flags” that I highly associate with borreliosis. These include memory loss, twitching around the eyes, Bell’s palsy (in which half of the face droops), tinnitus (which is ringing or buzzing in the ears), symptoms that affect one side of the body more than the other, symptoms that are worse when a patient first gets out of bed or that are worse in the winter, when patients use words like “strange” or “weird” in describing their illness, and finally, when patients have been to a good doctor (or many doctors) and yet the cause of the symptoms or disease is still unknown.
Borreliosis patients are often misdiagnosed as being hypochondriacs. They are told that they are just getting older, or that they are lazy, crazy or simply overstressed. They are often referred for counseling when actually what they really need is antibiotics. Because the symptoms can be so varied and are often so vague, borreliosis is typically not even considered for testing or treatment.