Don’t be too Casual with Acute Lyme Disease When it Matters Most

Sadly, we all need to understand no matter how many amazing awareness campaigns there are or celebrities who come forward, nothing will change with the problem of developing chronic Lyme disease until the Doctor-Patient interaction changes for the average person, on an average day, in the average doctors office. This is where the magic happens. This is where a new tick bite can be treated long enough to significantly reduce suffering with long term complications.

There is no debate, most allopathic health care practitioners are treating patients with integrity, compassion and preventative measures. However, I have heard far too many disturbing reports from patient’s prompting me to speak-up due to what appears to me to be a lack of common sense and compassion. There does not seem to be a change in the management of an acute bite to match what is happening realistically here in the New England area. It is harder to avoid Lyme disease in New Hampshire than to be exposed to it. It is the most tick infested and infected areas in the country.

To be fair, I am presenting one doctor’s opinion. I’m what is referred to as a Lyme Literate Naturopathic Doctor. I’m a member of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) which has a much different approach than current CDC medical model for managing tick borne infections. I most commonly treat with a combination of natural medications and antibiotics. Most patients come to seek help because they have already visited many other doctor’s, only to be refused care for Lyme disease. I’m seeing on average three to four tick bites per day at my office this season over the past eight weeks. This is one third of my patient volume in a day current. A majority of the patients I see are chronically ill with Lyme disease. I treat acute bites aggressively to help avoid the intense difficulty chronic Lyme disease can become.

Since tick season started this year patients have reported being dissuaded from treatment or given just one pill of doxycycline and told they are all set. So far, Spring of 2017 is one of the worst years I have seen in ten years of practice for tick bite exposure and rate of infected ticks that have been tested by an outside lab. People are still being told to “wait and see” if symptoms occur while they present to their doctor with a tick they pulled from their own body which has tested positive for Borellia with Tick Report UMASS Amherst . If a patient were to accidentally step on a hypodermic needle in a random park, they would be placed on antivirals and antibiotics for months as well as being tested for every possible transmittable infection. The tick is a naturally infected hypodermic needle.

Here are some common interactions reported by patient’s trying to seek medical care for a new tick bite: 

Parents reporting their infants are being refused any antibiotics when they present with a confirmed infected tick when tested with outside lab. Parents are being told to wait and see after pulling an infected tick from their baby.

Primary Care Providers commonly tell patients they do not believe in Lyme disease. Lyme disease is real. Whether is it believed or not only impacts the doctors willingness to treat. It does not make the disease go away, unfortunately. I sure wish that worked. I would love it if denying the existence of Lyme disease made it go away.

Another symptomatic patient tried to call orthopedic specialist, infectious disease specialist, and rheumatologist for help with a confirmed acute Lyme disease infection before seeing me. They were told by different offices it would be a “waste of doctors time for the patient to come in and discuss Lyme disease, they didn’t treat Lyme.” This person just wanted to have another opinion about care and sit with medical practitioner to discuss a reportable disease they had just contracted. How demoralizing to hear your illness would be a waste of a doctors time to meet with them.

Doctors are getting up and leaving the room without saying a word when patients ask to be tested for Lyme disease with western blot. This has been reported by many patients seeking help in different clinics with different doctors.

I’m seeing inconsistent treatment recommendations. Patient’s are typically given two pills of doxycycline, others prescribed tens days, and others 21 days. All doctors reporting they are doing what is recommended by Center for Disease Control (CDC). A recommended treatment time in my office with a new bite is to start on treatment while sending out tick for testing, If positive then continued treatment for six weeks is recommend to best eradicate infection. The arguments against antibiotics are harmful side effects of impacting the gut flora and reducing immunity. However in my practice I see much more flora imbalance due to immune suppression from harboring a chronic disease for long periods of time like Lyme disease.

The ramifications of tick borne disease are far more risky than the side effects of four to six week course of antibiotics. It is a hard and fast rule in my office that high dose probiotics (200-400 billion beneficial bacteria cells dosed per day) are used in conjunction with antibiotics. In ten years of practice, I can report there has only been three cases of clostridium difficile, an serious infection in the digestive system that happens with antibiotics given without probiotics. The three cases were due to consequences of not taking probiotics with treatment which was choice by patient not take probiotics as prescribed.

For patients with suspicious bullseye looking rash are frequently being diagnosed as a spider bite. Is it possible to just treat for Lyme disease, just as a precaution? Would it not cut down on the costs of medical procedures, unnecessary suffering and testing later to try a relatively inexpensive medication at the get go.

On a more positive note, it is exciting to see Lyme disease getting more press on TV, social media, and celebrities coming forward about their experiences. This opens a much needed dialogue. Patient’s feel emotionally more able to be verbal about what they are experiencing, they are advocating for themselves more readily, and are more savvy about how common it is. Instead of people feeling afraid to talk about their experiences due to facing judgement, they are more apt to speak up to help others.

My hope is that patient’s will be better equipped to enter into dialogue about Lyme disease with their medical practitioner, understanding that being dismissed is not appropriate, and there are doctors out there who are willing to treat. I have seen too many patients who are debilitated because of delay of treatment early on, which in my opinion is the biggest risk factor with developing chronic tick borne disease. Tick bites will happen, but aggressive intervention at the onset will reduce suffering for the patient and their family.

Dr. Julia Greenspan established Greenhouse Naturopathic Medicine in 2007 specializing in Lyme disease, general family practice, environmental medicine, and women’s health. She graduated from the National University of Natural Medicine in 2006. She has been interviewed as an expert in Lyme disease on WMUR and NECN, She has also been referenced in print media with The Union Leader and The Cabinet. She has been named Top Doctor with Reader Polls in New Hampshire Magazine for several years in her tenure, including 2016. For more information please visit www.greenhousemedicine.com.

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