Bottom Line/HEALTH:Let’s start out by actually defining Lyme disease, because it’s not as simple as chicken pox.
Dr. Richard Horowitz:Correct. Lyme disease comes from a spirochete—a bacteria. It’s like syphilis, and it has been around actually for thousands of years. It turned out that the Neanderthal man thousands of years ago had Lyme disease. It’s not a new disease—it has been around for a long time. You get it from the bite of an infected tick. Now, there are questions right now whether Lyme can be transmitted from mosquito bites or sexual transmission. There have been some conversations about that in medical literature, but it’s essentially from the bite of an infected tick. The problem is that most patients who see me don’t just get Lyme—they get a lot of other infections because these ticks contain multiple bacteria, multiple viruses and parasites, so it’s very complex.
Bottom Line:That’s really the key to it then. We talk about Lyme disease generically, but the fact of the matter is that Lyme disease rarely comes alone.
Dr. Horowitz:That’s correct. If Lyme was alone, first of all, when you treat it at the level of the bull’s-eye rash—by the way, half the people don’t get rashes at all, and of the ones who do get rashes, it actually looks like a bull’s eye in only about 15% to 20% to 25%. Doctors will make the diagnosis of cellulitis, an infection in the skin, or a spider bite. So you don’t have to get the rash to have Lyme disease. The problem is if you get it early, you can cure it 75% to 80% of the time, but when you don’t get it early, that’s when it goes on to the chronic disease state. You get persistent symptoms, and those are the people who generally come to see me after they’ve seen 10 to 20 doctors.