There are a number of key differences between early Lyme disease and chronic Lyme disease. Lyme is highly treatable in its early stages. However, the longer it remains untreated, the more likely it will turn into chronic Lyme disease.
What is the Difference Between Early Lyme Disease and Chronic Lyme?
Acute Lyme Disease (ALD)
Acute Lyme comes on suddenly and is very like the flu, so a lot of people may mistake it for this common illness. However, if you have been walking in the woods or been on vacation in a wooded area, or one with deer, or walking in tall grass with a skirt or shorts on, it is possible for a tick to latch onto you.
The tick will usually have to remain on you for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria which causes Lyme. Baby ticks, known as nymphs, are only the size of a poppy seed, and adult ticks only the size of a sesame seed, so it is easy to pick up a tick and never even notice.
Pets who spend a lot of time outside in the tall grass are also prone to picking up ticks, especially if they are long-haired. The tick can then transfer onto a human family member. Keeping up with flea and tick protect each month with Frontline or a similar product will usually be enough to keep your pet safe. However, if you live in the northeast where Lyme is most common, a tick collar will offer even more protection.
If you do develop flu symptoms and have spent a lot of time outdoors in the previous week, suspect Lyme and get checked by a doctor.
The most obvious sign of early Lyme is a bullseye rash comprised of a red center with a white ring around it and then a red outer ring. Unfortunately, it is only present in about 70% to 80% of patients, leaving the others at risk of the disease progressing to chronic Lyme.
Chronic Lyme Disease (CLD)
Chronic Lyme Disease can be a lot tougher to treat, and cause significant damage to one or more parts of the body. It can be described as a persistent infection due to the presence of the bacteria which causes Lyme, which is a spirochete. The corkscrew shape of spirochetes means they can attach onto tissue easily and are harder to get rid of. A more familiar spirochete is syphilis, and as history has shown, it is difficult to treat and has devastating long-term consequences, particularly neurological ones.
* Typical symptoms include:
* Frequent headaches/migraines that are not always relieved with painkillers
* A stiff neck
* Brain fog
* Memory loss
* Cognitive impairment to the point where doctors think it might be Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
* Nerve pain
Lyme carditis strikes at the heart muscle and can lead to various forms of damage and issues. It can make the heart beat slower (bradycardia) or faster (tachycardia) or irregularly. Experts compare a person who has Lyme carditis as having a similar quality of life to those with congestive heart failure. Heart failure will result in death if it is not managed properly with medications. A pacemaker might also be put in to help the heart work better, or a defibrillator to deal with rhythm issues.
Most people with chronic Lyme report aches and pains in the bones and joints, and in the muscles. The condition was once termed Lyme arthritis. The quality of life can be severely diminished due to the pain.
Both ALD and CLD can be treated with antibiotics, though not always 100% successfully.
Now that you know the main differences between early Lyme disease and chronic Lyme disease, it might be time to check in with your doctor to start dealing with any symptoms you may have in a more proactive manner.