Why am I still sick after Lyme treatment? Chronic Lyme, Lyme co-infections, and flare-ups

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You may be wondering why you continue to feel terrible, even though you’ve been “treated” for Lyme disease. When Lyme is detected and addressed early on it can often have positive outcomes. That is not always the case, though. When someone’s Lyme remains undiagnosed, untreated, or not treated correctly, it is more likely to turn into Chronic Lyme (or sometimes referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease).

Sometimes early treatment will still result in chronic and lasting Lyme symptoms. These chronic Lyme symptoms are often more severe than that of the early-stage Lyme, and become more and more challenging to effectively manage. In addition to these chronic symptoms, many continue to suffer because of Lyme co-infections.

Keep reading to learn more about what Lyme co-infections are and why your Lyme symptoms may continue to persist even though you have received “treatment.”

*Disclaimer: There is limited research on Lyme and its co-infections, so there is not one right answer for diagnosis or treatment. Consult your physician if you think you may be suffering from chronic Lyme or co-infection symptoms. 

Why are my Lyme symptoms not going away?

“In a study of 61 people treated for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Johns Hopkins researchers conclude that fatigue, pain, insomnia and depression do indeed persist over long periods of time for some people, despite largely normal physical exams and clinical laboratory testing.”

Unfortunately, your Lyme symptoms may not be going away for one of many reasons. For example, your immune system has undergone a serious attack, which can leave your body with some serious recovering to do. 

It could also mean the antibiotics did not work, and there is still Lyme bacteria living in your body.

Another possibility is that in addition to your Lyme infection, you also have a Lyme co-infection that should be treated differently than how you would treat Lyme disease. These combinations of infections and symptoms are yet another reason Lyme can be so tricky to treat.

Lyme Co-Infections

What are Lyme co-infections?

A co-infection refers to having an infection at the same time as another. Diseases and symptoms associated with another infection (in this case, Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses) are known as co-infections. Ticks carry multiple infections such as (and most commonly) Babesia, Bartonella, Rickettsia, Ehrlichia & Anaplasma, etc, so it is not uncommon for somebody to contract Lyme, along with another infection. These co-infections can have very similar side effects to Lyme, so when your Lyme symptoms continue to persist, it is important to have your doctor check for the possibility of co-infections.

Here are some of the most common Lyme co-infections and tick-related illnesses:

Babesia is a parasite, with over 100 known species, that infects red blood cells. Only a few of these known species are harmful to humans but can be deadly to those who do not have an immune system equipped to handle such an attack. It spreads through ticks or contaminated blood. 

There are several tests for Babesia, but not all are 100% reliable. A microscopic blood examination will be done but can only detect an infection in the first two weeks. 

Microscpoic blood testing is a reliable way to diagnose Lyme co-infections

Symptoms of Babesia may include flu-like symptoms, shortness of breath, body aches, low blood pressure, kidney failure, and anemia.

Treatment is usually antibiotics and anti-malarial/anti-parasite drugs. 

Bartonella can be transmitted through flea bite, cat scratch/bite, and black-legged ticks. Studies have shown that when infected with both Bartonella henselae AND Borrelia burgdorferi, symptoms are more severe. 

Test results for Bartonella are inconsistent but Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests, tissue biopsy and blood testing is the standard.

Symptoms of Bartonella may include fever, fatigue, headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and a streaked rash. 

Treatment is generally a combination of antibiotics.

Ehrlichia and Anaplasma present themselves similarly, but are caused by different things. Blood testing is limited in that it only identifies two of the parasite species. However, some doctors will diagnose when patients don’t respond to Lyme treatment. 

Symptoms may include low white blood cell count, anemia, kidney, and respiratory problems. The common symptoms present themselves with fever, fatigue, muscle aches, etc. 

Treatment is antibiotics and rifampin.

Other related tick-borne diseases include: 

  • Colorado Tick Fever
  • Mycoplasma
  • Powassan Virus
  • Q Fever
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (also known as Rickettsia)
  • Tick Paralysis
  • Tickborne Relapsing Fever
  • Tularemia

To put it simply, all of these co-infections have spotty testing that is not always accurate, they all have similar symptoms that overlap, and treatment is only sometimes successful. So how do you know what to do?

Keep reading to learn more about chronic Lyme and how we recommend treating both chronic Lyme and its co-infections.

Chronic Lyme Disease

If you conclude you do not have any co-infections (negative testing does not necessarily rule them out), you are probably suffering from chronic Lyme disease.

When is Lyme considered chronic Lyme?

Chronic Lyme differs from Lyme just in that it is well, chronic. The symptoms continue post-antibiotic treatment and it is believed by many that the Lyme bacteria (borrelia burgdorferi) is still lingering in the body. If your Lyme disease was left untreated, it can become chronic Lyme.

Can Lyme symptoms come and go?

After treatment, it is not uncommon to feel well and then have a relapse of symptoms. These symptoms may continue to come and go and/or worsen depending on certain triggers. This is referred to as a “flare-up” and can explain why many who are chronically ill experience “good” and “bad” days.

For example, Kim received Lyme treatment and was feeling better. However, anxiety attacks followed just a few months after she thought she was in the clear.

Why do people not believe in chronic Lyme disease?

There is a general belief amongst the medical community that Lyme disease is easily treated with a round of antibiotics and that it is rare when symptoms persist. However, many in the Lyme community have different experiences and would care to disagree. Many who are chronically ill are believed to be hypochondriacs, depressed, or seeking attention. This is not unique to the Lyme community, but since false information has been spread so abundantly, it is hard to change people’s minds on an issue like this. 

For example, Skepchick shares an extreme example and seemingly convincing argument against chronic Lyme—for someone who doesn’t know any better. She shares a story of someone who continues to take antibiotics for Lyme disease, which gave her drug-induced lupus, resulting in a multitude of issues. She argues that people who are sick must be sick with another illness that is not chronic Lyme disease. To us, this story does not discredit chronic Lyme disease. This story tells us that there is just not enough research to rule it out, so people will put their bodies through extreme measures to heal themselves! 

This is another reason people may not believe in chronic Lyme disease is because not enough research has been done. While there has been a bigger push to increase this budget for research, there is still a lot to be done. 

How can I treat chronic Lyme and Lyme co-infections when antibiotics don’t work?

An essential part of Lyme treatment is finding things that remove the Lyme bacteria and also products that build up the immune system that has been under attack. 

Research shows that prolonged use of antibiotics is not only ineffective when it comes to treating chronic Lyme but can also cause other health issues.

Many turn to natural ways to cure their Lyme disease which include supplements such as:

  • vitamin B- 1
  • vitamin C
  • fish oil
  • alpha lipoic acid
  • Magnesium
  • chlorella
  • cat’s claw
  • garlic
  • olive leaf
  • turmeric
  • glutathione

and essential oils, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, chelation therapy, saunas, UV light, electromagnetic therapy—the list goes on and the research is limited.

Silver for Lyme treatment

Additionally, we have found silver can be an effective measure to address Lyme bacteria in the body. Independent studies have shown a 200ppm advanced cellular silver, for example, to be effective at killing Borrelia, Powassan, and Bartonella.

Dr. Hanshew explains how spirochetes work and how silver can help.

Whether you’re dealing with chronic Lyme or Lyme co-infections, it can be really difficult to get a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. Join our private Facebook group to talk with people who can give their feedback on what has worked for them. 

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