Lyme disease – its causes, symptoms, complications – can stem cell transplant treat the disease where antibiotics have failed?
Causes: Lyme disease is a communicable disease caused by bacteria of the Borrelia type. The disease also known as Lyme borreliosis is the result of bites from infected black-legged ticks. These tiny insects of the Ixodes genus are characteristically found in wooded and grassy areas.
Generally, people tend to associate Lyme disease with the east coast of the United States; however, factually speaking, it is found all over the U.S including more than 60 other countries. As per the estimates of the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, about 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year.
It is a disease that affects people of all ages especially those who spend more time outdoors exposing themselves to the possibility of being bitten by the dreaded tick.
Symptoms: Often the symptoms of Lyme disease are misdiagnosed because the symptoms are similar to that of many other diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and various psychiatric illnesses, including depression.
The early symptoms of the disease are fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches which can be confused with other diseases. However, the most common symptom one should look for is a “bull’s eye” rash which begins with an expanding area of redness where the person has been bitten by an infected tick. If the disease is left untreated it could lead to some additional and more serious symptoms listed below:
* Severe headaches and neck stiffness
* Additional EM rashes on other areas of the body
* Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and other large joints.
* Facial palsy (loss of muscle tone or droop on one or both sides of the face)
* Intermittent pain in tendons, muscles, joints, and bones
* Heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis)
* Episodes of dizziness or shortness of breath
* Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
* Nerve pain
* Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
* Problems with short-term memory
There are three stages of Lyme disease.
Stage 1 is called early localized Lyme disease. The bacteria have not yet spread throughout the body.
Stage 2 is called early disseminated Lyme disease. The bacteria have begun to spread throughout the body.
Stage 3 is called late disseminated Lyme disease. The bacteria have spread throughout the body.
Treatment: If diagnosed early (Stage 1) it can be treated with a combination of appropriate antibiotics and recovery is usually rapid and complete. Antibiotics like doxycycline, amoxicillin, and cefuroxime can be administered orally to patients afflicted with Lyme disease for 2-3 weeks.
However, if diagnosed at later stage (stage 2 or stage 3) antibiotics injections or aggressive intravenous treatment and proper monitoring may be required.
While stem cell transplant has the capacity to heal the cells damaged by Lyme disease, for example, neurological damage like encephalitis, chronic fatigue or myelitis, it cannot eradicate Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.