Unproven treatments for chronic Lyme disease

Dangerous unproven treatments for ‘chronic Lyme disease’ are on the rise – The Washington Post

An increasing number of Americans with medically ambiguous symptoms are being misdiagnosed with “chronic Lyme disease and prescribed dangerous and often expensive treatments that do not work, according to a new report.

In some instances, patients have died after receiving intensive, long-term and inappropriate courses of intravenous antibiotics that led to septic shock. In other cases, misdiagnosis caused dangerous delays in treatment of a patient’s actual underlying condition.

These incorrect diagnoses have existed for years. But public health officials and clinicians say they are alarmed because of the increasing severity and scope of some treatments in recent years, said Christina Nelson, a medical epidemiologist and author of a report released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Many of the various treatments, including courses of intravenous antibiotics lasting months and years, have no evidence of effectiveness.

Studies have shown that prolonged courses of intravenous antibiotics can often result in serious harm, including death.

Unorthodox alternative therapies include intravenous infusions of hydrogen peroxide, electromagnetic frequency treatments, garlic supplements, even stem cell transplants.

Chronic Lyme disease is a diagnosis that some health-care providers use to describe patients with a variety of symptoms such as fatigue, generalized pain, and neurological symptoms.

Many of these patients have experienced significant debilitation from their symptoms and failed to find relief after seeing conventional medical practitioners.

As a result, some turn to alternative medicine clinics or practitioners who sometimes identify themselves as Lyme disease specialists, or “Lyme literate” doctors, who may subject patients to a host of unproven treatments, the report said.

Typical symptoms of true Lyme disease include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash that may have a characteristic bull’s eye shape.

If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart and nervous system. The recommended treatment is generally a two-to-four-week course of antibiotics.

The CDC estimates about 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme each year, and the numbers have been on the rise.

One woman in her 50s with progressive weakness, swelling and tingling in her extremities was eventually diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. She sought a second evaluation and was told she had chronic Lyme disease.

She received seven months of intensive antimicrobial treatment — including drugs that were antifungal agents not recommended for treating Lyme disease — but her weakness worsened. She developed an intractable C. difficile infection, with severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea that persisted for more than two years.

The woman eventually died from complications related to ALS, said Nelson, who had spoken with the patient

The CDC is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of misdiagnosis and unproven treatments.

The report focuses on the serious bacterial infections associated with prolonged antibiotic treatment. While antibiotics are effective for many conditions, unnecessary antibiotics provide no benefit and actually put patients at risk for serious harm, especially if used for extended periods. The drugs kill beneficial bacteria and allow drug-resistant ones to dominate, and intravenous treatments can introduce new infections.

Neither the CDC or the National Institutes of Health recommends using the diagnosis “chronic Lyme disease,” for several reasons, Nelson said. The diagnosis is often based on clinical judgment, with no objective evidence of Lyme disease, such as standard laboratory testing for Lyme bacteria or even a history of possible tick exposure in an area with endemic Lyme disease.

Clinicians who call themselves “Lyme literate” are often self-annointed; there is no special training program and no requirement to be board certified in infectious disease, Nelson said.


8 thoughts on “Unproven treatments for chronic Lyme disease

  1. Zyp Czyk Post author

    Yes, I also found that weird. Perhaps they are taking about the bacterial infections in the blood that arise from the frequent use of needles for IV drips in less than sterile environments?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Emily Raven

    With the info on ticks/deer populations/rate of infected ticks/mild winter I hope this doesn’t discourage people with actual Lyme getting treatment… It’s not like it isn’t a real, extremely debilitating problem. There are only 2 doctors in my state that treat it (as of an article Feb 2016 that was already warning about the coming wave and I doubt we’ve gotten more as this is Wisconsin) and our deer/ticks are out of control.

    It’s almost like fibro…. A very real, horrible thing that turns into a wastebin diagnosis so the people with the actual disease aren’t treated seriously and are tossed away like malingerers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Emily Raven

    Also… Does anyone know what people with the disease should look for then if “Lyme literate” isn’t it? I know several people undergoing the antibiotics that seem to work/be necessary but now it sounds like some of these are “real doctors” that also practice the woo that has no indication for the condition (see the comments on the FDA guidelines we all just commented on. Actual internists and the like pontificating about “curing” people in pain with acupuncture. *Shudders*)

    This is scary for everyone dealing with it. Hope it becomes more “mainstream” soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      Alt-Med has inserted itself into main stream medicine and that’s a bug problem.

      For conditions that aren’t “curable”, the alt-med folks step right up with a solution – it will only require regular infusions of cash. They are completely unregulated (correctly, I believe) and seem very skilled at talking people out of their money.

      I have had success with a couple of alt-med Tx, so I know they CAN work, but I think they are so “holistic” that they’ll only work for specific combinations of practitioners and patients.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kathy C

    This debacle makes it very clear how little “Science’ has helped with this one Condition. When Lyme Disease was first discovered the Medical Industry ignored it. The CDC did not take is seriously at first either. This exposes some really serious flaws in our Medical System. There is no “Authority” for people to turn to, for Evidence Based Information. When there is a lapse in Fact Based Science, the “Alternative Fraudsters step in.
    These Fraudulent “Treatments” have been known to kill people, yet not one Government Agency has gone after this Industry. This Pseudo Science is treated as if is factual, by our Media, Daytime TV Shows, like the “Doctors” refer to this as if it were legitimate. The “Alternative Medicine Business” is very Profitable, and is now endorsed by Real Physicians. Perhaps they won;t do a Sting or go after these Quacks, because it could shed light on other Frauds that are perpetuated as legitimate by the Medical Industry. We are truly Post Science. People should be a lot more skeptical, and perhaps a little scared.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      It’s becoming harder to sort out the real from the fanciful now that medicine has opened the doors to any and all “woo-woo” alt-med approaches, as they were of the same standing.

      Liked by 1 person


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