Lyme Disease, the Hidden Epidemic—Is Your Arthritis or MS Really Lyme’s?

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Helke Ferrie is the author of Ending Denial – The Lyme Disease EpidemicOne of the most misdiagnosed diseases in North America is Lyme disease. In fact, it’s been mistaken for arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and other diseases, causing a wide array of issues for patients who may  not know until it’s too late that they have this potentially fatal disease.

In the U.S., 30,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in 2009—but there are probably many more unreported cases, due to a lack of knowledge about Lyme disease. You can catch Lyme disease by being bitten from an infected tick that carries the Lyme disease B. burgdorferi bacteria. Today, at least 50 variants of the B. burgdorferi are known. Deer, mice, dogs, cats, squirrels, and especially millions of migratory birds of 42 known species spread this infection, with late spring and summer being the highest risk seasons for contracting Lyme disease.

Usually, the tick must be attached to your body for 36-48 hours before the bacterium enters your system. Unfortunately, the majority of people with Lyme disease don’t remember being bitten by a tick, thus adding to the misdiagnosis problem. The ticks are usually attracted to areas on your body that are harder for you to see—like the groin, armpits, and your scalp. You might not notice the bite at all, until you develop the symptoms.

A few days after being bitten by an infested tick, you may see a small red bump on your skin that can spread into a larger, more round or oval red rash over the next couple of weeks. Many people describe the rash as a bull’s eye—a red center with rings surrounding it. Sometimes the rash is under your hair, or on your back and you can miss it.

Unlike previously thought, however, many people do not develop this rash.

More than 65 % of people do not develop a rash as some species of Lyme-transmitting ticks do not cause one. Therefore, the vast majority of Lyme-infected people do not know how they developed Lyme, but erroneously believe they have arthritis, MS, ALS, or another condition.

Of those who develop the rash, many mistake it for a spider bite or even poison ivy. Unlike poison ivy, it is not as itchy and is warm and tender when you touch it. If you notice these symptoms, there’s a good chance you need to get checked for Lyme disease.

One of the reasons why Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed is because its symptoms can manifest itself as another, more well-known disease. Many people will experience flu-like symptoms, which is harder to trace to Lyme’s or a tick bite. You may also feel severe fatigue, chills, a headache, muscle and joint pain. If left untreated, the symptoms worsen, to extreme fatigue, weakness, heart palpitations, arthritic symptoms, and central and peripheral nervous system disorders.

If you, like the majority of people, don’t make a connection between your tick bite and your symptoms, it’s likely Lyme disease will never even come up at your doctor’s visit. And that’s how this “great imitator” is mistaken for a variety of other conditions, including, Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease (when it can kill rapidly), Parkinson’s, scleroderma, chronic migraines, seizures, psychosis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Many of these imitated diseases are treated with immuno-suppressants which assist the Lyme spirochete’s proliferation; the death certificate, understandably, will not list Lyme but one of the other diagnostic labels.

Many doctors are not familiar with the extensive range of symptoms that Lyme disease can exhibit, and some of the testing is not accurate in chronic cases. It’s important to confirm that your doctor is using the correct testing.  I recommend that you refer your doctor to and for the CDD/ASPHLD criteria for the serologic diagnosis of Lyme disease, where you can find complete information on symptoms and accurate testing. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to evaluate a new patient at any stage of Lyme disease, at least an IgM and an IgG Western blot must be performed.

If you think you may have contracted Lyme disease, it is very important to get tested correctly for Lyme. If you ask your doctor about Lyme, he may ask if you’ve had a rash. We know it doesn’t always show up that way. Only some transmitting ticks cause the classic diagnostic bull’s eye rash in people. All victims develop pseudo flu with subsequent Lyme symptoms, according to the CDC.

This disease does not get the awareness that it deserves—and needs. In 2008, the World Health organization announced that Lyme is the world’s fastest proliferating infectious disease. It can be contracted by cats and dogs, which pass the bacteria onto us. In fact, it’s sexually transmissible. The first documented case of sexually transmitted Lyme was former U.S. President George W. Bush Jr. and his wife. The experience so impressed Bush, he allocated large funds for research and public education. Pregnant women can pass it through placental blood to their babies, sometimes causing autism. If the mother is infected after the baby’s birth, her infected breast milk can retard brain development.

Eventually, Lyme will be tested properly everywhere and doctors will be taught to recognize and treat it correctly. Having experienced Lyme in six family members, myself included, I know that correct information is required immediately. My book Ending Denial – The Lyme Disease Epidemic (Kos 2010), available at was edited and produced as a not-for-profit book and provides all the information patients most need: how to avoid its controversies and politics, find reliable testing, and science-validated treatment. It also contains the complete internationally recognized treatment protocols.

The first step is getting informed about the disease. Understand the signs and symptoms of this disease and press your doctor for the appropriate testing (mentioned above). You must become your own best advocate, because no one else will do it for you.

Helke Ferrie will occasionally be contributing to the Doctors Health Press newsletter, Cures for the Hidden Causes of Illness. Her upcoming article will focus in-depth on Lyme disease. Subscribe to the Cures for the Hidden Causes of Illness or any other Doctors Health Press monthly newsletters here.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Weintraub, P., Cure Unknown – Inside the Lyme Disease Epidemic (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009).
Ferrie, H., editor. Ending Denial – The Lyme Disease Epidemic (Kos, 2010).

Ferrie, H., Creative Outrage – A Medical Journalist reports on the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in Current Medicine (Kos, 2013). This book contains a large section on the politics of Lyme in Canada with extensive sources (visit for more information)
Websites for Lyme Patients
For reliable testing and treatments: and
For everything on Lyme throughout the world, go to Lyme Disease Association,