Lyme: Mimic or Cause?

Lyme Disease:
Does it "Mimic" Other Medical Conditions...Or is it R
eally their Cause?

By Dr. Donald Liebell

     You were bitten by an infectious tick.  Maybe you know when... maybe you don’t.  It injected you likely with three bacteria and a protozoan (single cell parasite).  Was this Lyme-centered infection the single cause of ALL of your symptoms? 

   Not likely.

   The popular public medical opinion (from those who are savvy enough to acknowledge chronic Lyme disease) is that Lyme “mimics” dozens of medical conditions.  I consider this concept to be grossly simplistic and fiendishly deceptive.  While it is certainly true that many symptoms and harmful physical changes do not take place as direct result of Borrelia (Lyme bacteria) infection; it seems crystal clear that it “lights the fire” for significant deterioration throughout your body.  When your body is weakened by destructive invading microorganisms, it renders you less capable of handling other problems.  This is no great medical revelation.  Yet, when it comes to broad-based medical acknowledgement of Lyme as a genesis point for multiple maladies, there is mostly silence.

   If your immune system is weakened by infection of Borrelia, with its common “companions,” Ehrlicia, Bartonella, and Babesia, you may become “fertile ground” for countless other microbes to flourish.  When your immune system is strong, you are capable of fighting off all kinds of viruses, bacteria, and fungi.  Why wouldn’t you become susceptible to many other diseases as a result of the immune suppressing force of Lyme?  Does this really mean that Lyme “mimics” other diseases?  Is it accurate to call Lyme the “Great Pretender,” or is it actually the great TRIGGER?

   If an individual, who was feeling great in perfect health, was bitten by an infectious tick, one may logically assume that the resulting symptoms could be isolated as pertaining to Lyme disease.  However, it is frequently the case that the bite victim is unaware of the bite; no tick was ever seen or felt, and no red mark or characteristic “bull’s eye” rash developed.  This person might over time, develop various symptoms that depending on what doctor, or type of doctor seen, could be diagnosed in a variety of ways:

  • A general medical practitioner might diagnose the patient with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
  • A neurologist might diagnose the patient with peripheral neuropathy and prescribe Neurontin. 
  • A rheumatologist might diagnose the patient with fibromyalgia syndrome, and prescribe Lyrica. 
  • A psychiatrist my diagnose depression and prescribe drugs for such. 

   All of the hypothetical (but very common) diagnoses above could be well-justified.  Nevertheless it would be blatantly inaccurate to suggest that Lyme disease “mimicked” these conditions.  Lyme can silently cause dozens of symptoms.  Many medical diagnoses are merely stating in Latin, what the patient said in English:

     Patient: “I have pins and needles down my legs with numbness in my toes.”

     Doctor: “You have peripheral neuropathy.”


     Patient: “I have headaches only on my left side, behind my eye, and I feel dizzy, and I throw up.”

     Doctor: “You have Migraines.”


     Patient: “My whole body hurts… I can’t sleep, I’m always tired, and I feel depressed.”

     Doctor: “You have fibromyalgia syndrome.”

   My patients regularly described the above scenarios as their experience with previous doctors.  The fact is that these diagnostic names frequently lack any substance of CAUSE factor.  This is shameful because any symptom can have various or multiple causes.  

   I passionately desire truth in advertising.  More crudely put, I’m staunchly anti-B.S.  In my opinion, when it comes to chronic illness and symptoms, a diagnosis without at least one proposed cause factor associated with it, is an incomplete diagnosis.

   How about: Lyme induced Migraines?

   Or Peripheral neuropathy associated with chronic Lyme disease?

   Could it be that medical diagnosis “truth in advertising” would be disruptive to the health care system?

   If “fibromyalgia” was recognized by the public as being directly (or even indirectly) triggered by Lyme disease, would that not affect public perception of FDA approved “fibromyalgia” drugs, Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella?

   Would “fibromyalgia” patients be questioning their Lyrica-prescribing physicians about treating the underlying cause (which in my experience is commonly Lyme)? 

   Unfortunately, as long as the bulk of so-called conventional medicine entails treating symptoms by mating each with a drug (ignoring cause factors), chronic Lyme will not be diagnosed.  And, since there’s substantial evidence that long-term antibiotic usage is an unhealthy practice (for all conditions, not just Lyme), I suspect it’s much easier, convenient, and lucrative to diagnose everything else but Lyme.

   I would be curious to survey every doctor (of every specialty) and find out if their medical case history forms and/or their consultation include inquiry of tick bites.  In my opinion, it should be an integral part of ALL medical evaluation. 

   In my practice, every chronic pain sufferer, regardless of symptoms or reason for consulting with me, is questioned about a history of tick bites and/or Lyme as a diagnosis.  Since the academic medical literature is loaded with evidence that Lyme seems to be capable of affecting any system of the human body; I’m not taking any chances with your health.  

    I'm here to help, and I'll be glad to answer your questions.  You can copy and paste the address above into your email.  I respond to questions in the order I receive them, usually within 48 hours.  My responses are for general information only, and must not be construed as advice for specific medical treatment or diagnosis.  For appointments, please call my office.  Your email address or other information is confidential; I will never share it with anyone, nor will it be used for any form of solicitation.   I look forward to your questions!  

                                              - Dr. Donald Liebell

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