The People's Perspective on Medicine

Show 1081: What Do You Need to Know About Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease isn't always easy to diagnose, and it can cause serious long-lasting damage. How can you be alert for this tick-borne infection?
Dr. Bill Rawls, left, and Dr. Neil Spector
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What Do You Need to Know About Lyme Disease?

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There’s been a big increase in mouse populations in many places over the past year. As a result, the number of ticks is booming, and you have a greater chance of being bitten when you go outside. Could a bite put you in danger from Lyme disease?

The Basics of Lyme Disease:

Lyme disease is the name given to a constellation of symptoms in reaction to infection with a tick-borne pathogen called Borrelia burgdorferi. The black-legged tick, Ixodes scapularis, is the usual culprit in transmitting this germ. Black-legged ticks feed on white-tailed deer and white-footed mice as well as humans, hence the name “deer tick.”

The infection can produce a rash (though it doesn’t always), along with fever, chills, joint pain, fatigue, headache and flu-like symptoms. If left untreated, Borrelia infection can cause more serious symptoms, including arthritis, pain in muscles and tendons, heart symptoms due to inflammation of the heart muscle and neurological symptoms from inflammation of nerve tissue. Some people also experience brain fog or problems with memory and concentration.

Lyme Disease Stories:

Both of our guests on today’s show are physicians, and both have suffered with Lyme disease that went undiagnosed and untreated for many years. In Dr. Spector’s case, the primary symptoms were heart rhythm abnormalities as the infection destroyed his heart. He eventually needed a heart transplant.

Dr. Rawls also had cardiac symptoms, in addition to fatigue and many other problems. When he finally figured out what was happening to him, he developed a multi-modal treatment plan incorporating herbs to modulate his immune reaction. He also wrote a book, Unlocking Lyme.

Diagnosing Lyme:

While a bulls-eye rash is usually thought of as the signal of Lyme disease, not all target-shaped rashes are the result of Lyme, and quite a few people with Lyme disease never notice a rash. Indeed, some are unaware of having been bitten by a tick.

Lyme disease diagnosis is not as straightforward as the diagnosis for certain other diseases. The laboratory tests need to be interpreted by a clinician who is experienced in the use of two-tiered testing.

Taking Control:

When patients feel they need to take control for themselves, one resource is ILADS: The International Lyme and Associate Diseases Society.

There is also more information on this website about other tick-borne infections. We discussed Lyme disease, Bartonellosis and alpha-gal allergy in Show 1003. Show 907 covered Bartonella infections in detail.

This Week’s Guests:

Neil Spector, MD, is an associate professor of medicine as well as pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University Medical Center. He holds the Sandra Coates chair in breast cancer research. Dr. Spector co-directs the experimental therapeutics program for the Duke Cancer Institute and is a Komen Scholar. His book is Gone in a Heartbeat: A Physician’s Search for True Healing.

Bill Rawls, MD, is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology. He has written about Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and chronic immune system dysfunction. His books include Unlocking Lyme: Myths, Truths and Practical Solutions and Suffered Long Enough. His website is

Listen to the Podcast:

The podcast of this program will be available the Monday after the broadcast date. The show can be streamed online from this site and podcasts can be downloaded for free. (We’d be grateful for a review on iTunes or Google Play.) CDs may be purchased at any time after broadcast for $9.99.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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I’ve had some of the best results reducing my symptoms by using castor oil packs for an hour and half covering my liver, for the first two days after the pack I drink an ounce of olive oil and on the third day take two ounces of olive oil. I do this for three days in a row, then take three days off and repeat until symptoms leave.

Thank you so much for this episode. Hearing two doctors be discuss the gaps in knowledge and understanding surrounding this disease and its testing is very heartening. I have seen a major improvement of Lyme symptoms using an herbal and antibiotic combination treatment. This would not be possible if I had not finally decided to be my own advocate and find an llmd that I could trust.

My son donated blood several years ago, and the tested blood came back positive for Chagas disease, a disease similar to Lyme caused by an insect call the kissing bug. The disease has been much more prevalent in Central and South America, but it is gradually moving into the southern states. There are only a couple of medications that kill the disease that manifests itself in the blood and/or muscle tissue which eventually moves on and destroys the heart. These medications often have very toxic effects, particularly the only one available in the U.S. It is a horrible disease.

Fortunately, my son’s diagnosis was a false positive (He had had a mile case of Rocky Mt. spotted fever several years before which triggered a positive for Chagas) which he found out when he went to Argentina to get the less toxic medication. Our ability to test for and provide the better medication is totally inadequate. I am really appreciative to the wonderful doctors in Argentina who helped my son through this terrible ordeal. I wonder if Dr. Spector’s disease was actually Chagas, rather than Lyme??

Is the stem cell therapy available in the US something to consider for healing Lyme disease and associated illnesses?

Joe & Terry, Finally! Some truth about Lyme disease and it’s co-infections. Both doctors debunked the first paragraph of text under Basics of Lyme Disease. Finally someone is recognizing that all ticks carry some type of pathogen. I sincerely hope you do another show, correct the error about deer ticks being the carrier and talk more about protection.

The best I’ve found for pets is Seresto collars. They last 8 months… do not poison the animal like “Frontline” or similar products and most importantly Seresto collars repel ticks keeping pets from bringing ticks into the house.

Second is a product called Triple-Sure made of peppermint and cedar oils for humans and pets. Third is to spray clothing only with DEET (it’s nasty). Prevention is vital.

So much more needs to be discussed with someone from ILADS or the Global Lyme Alliance. I live in Preston County, WV and was infected by a tick in 2003. Diagnosed in 2005 when it was too late for antibiotics. Like your guest, I turned to alternative treatment. It has taken years of my life, ruined my ability to work or contribute in any meaningful way. I must have a caregiver now. Continuing to treat with herbals, homeopathics, acupuncture and other methods.

I have been abused, misdiagnosed, and have been refused treatment by 6 different doctors. My “Lyme literate” doctor was forced to resign her position at WVU hospitals for treating Chronic Lyme. There is so much more that needs to be brought to light.

Thank you for this insightful segment. My husband is currently trying to confirm a Lyme disease diagnosis… We often feel we fell down a rabbit hole…WAY more questions than answers…

While I am very interested in herbal meds, spurred on initially by hearing Dr. Low Dog on your show, I question why Dr. Rawls couldn’t take IV Rochephin (ceftriaxone) which is effective for Lyme and fairly free of side effects.
In a related vein, the old hands in the ER at Pitt County Hospital see Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever daily 8 -9 months a year and are experts at diagnosis and treatment. Textbooks written by city docs don’t have the history and all the presentations of this deadly disease quite right yet – you could save some more lives getting the real story out.

I am concerned that this comment states that ceftriaxone is “fairly free of side effects”. CDC cites a study that found: “Problems such as blood clots, allergic reactions, and gall bladder removal were attributed to IV ceftriaxone use in 26% of patients. The authors concluded that because the cognitive improvement was brief and the risks involved were high, a 10-week course of IV ceftriaxone was not an effective strategy for improving cognitive abilities.” All 3 of the side-effects noted can kill you, or cause hospitalization.

I was very impressed by this Broadcast. I am still going through a hard time causing a kind of PTSD. Having had a defibrillator-Pacemaker. Experiencing terrible like Bombs exploding in my chest was enough to wander what is the meaning of staying alive. Keeping going to the EMS which I recently had to receive a “Catheter Ablation of The Arrhythmia” in order to suppress these terrible shocks. Will I survive?
Still I am determined to go on my planed trip to Switzerland to pay visit to my very sick brother. I am a fighter I am ?ing if could you recommend me how contact Dr.Neil Spector which if I understood correctly suffered terrible trauma regarding defibrillator etc. I have a Dr. who performed the my Ablation, I seem to trust him but still after so many poor experiences, I can’t help but ? my path of life. What herbal teas?
My english is poor but I hope this concern of mine is not going to be in wane.
A sincere hank you
Boy do I enjoy your emissions. Bravo to you all.

I have suffered for 10 yrs now. $60000.00 put of pocket for alternative medicine. The medical institutions have total failed Ozone therapy should be immediately approved and reimbursed for. As well as proper nutrition including no sugar or refined food. No pesticide herbicide Monsanto food sources organic and use of hemp protein. This is just st a start

Does Lyme desease stay with you for life? I was bitten by a tick. I removed the tick and several days later developed a bullseye. I saw a doctor that day and was given the proper medication. I am 74yrs. Old and am experiencing shoulder and back pain. Is this caused by the Lyme desease from 2 yrs ago?

Dizzy! Dizzy! Dizziness is the first and worst symptom and the always missed, I swear! They don’t even mention it in symptoms! Three people, two locations, 3 different doctors, but same symptoms. Lyme disease in all 3 cases, AND all three doctor referred their patients to an audiologist. My husband was the middle case of the three, and a neighbor said “sounds like what I had. Dizzy.’ Audiologist referral.

But eventually diagnosed with lyme disease.” But my husband said “I have no ‘bite’. ‘Neither did I’, the neighbor said. Tested next day, my husband was positive for lyme. Months later my brother was referred to another audiologist for his dizziness. I said I bet it was lyme disease and my brother and his wife were defensive and said “no bite marks.’ I said neither did my husband or our neighbor. Brother tested next morning, and yes, lyme disease! Pay attention doctors: dizziness!

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