Shifting the Paradigm of Lyme and Chronic Disease
Story by Richard I. Horowitz, MD, Diplomate, American Board of Internal Medicine
Photo by Dr. Jyotsna Shah, IGeneX laboratories
When I think of living in the Hudson Valley, several images immediately come to mind: quaint towns with old-style diners, innovative organic farm-to-table restaurants, beautiful parks with vistas of the majestic Hudson River—and ticks. When I moved up to the Hudson Valley 30 years ago, I had no idea that I was moving into one of the most Lyme-endemic areas of the United States. I am a board-certified internist who has now seen over 12,000 chronically ill patients with Lyme and associated tick-borne diseases, and I am concerned about the growing number of people suffering from Lyme and Lyme-like illnesses. Many of the people who have come to see me were initially diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, an autoimmune disease like rheumatoid arthritis or MS, or unexplained neuropsychiatric illnesses such as depression, anxiety, OCD and even schizophrenia. Lyme mimics a broad range of diseases, and because testing is imperfect, millions of Americans now suffer with “unexplained” symptoms of chronic fatigue; fever; sweats and chills; muscle, joint and nerve pain; headaches; insomnia; memory and concentration problems; and psychiatric disorders. Lyme is spreading in epidemic proportion in the United States, as the Centers for Disease Control announced that there was a tenfold increase in the number of cases in 2013, from 30,000 to over 300,000 cases per year. Most of these cases are in the Northeast. The CDC then published in 2015 that there was a 320 percent increase in the number of counties affected. Many people are getting sick and searching for answers. Is there anything we can do?