Severity of Lyme disease even without contracting COVID-19
Dr. Cameron's Inside Lyme video podcast highlights the severity of Lyme disease even without contracting COVID-19 through a discussion of five cases.
The burden of illness for individuals with a history of Lyme disease can be high
A 68-year-old woman with a history of a deer tick bite, but no rash or a swollen knee. She is not sure which tests were positive. She had been ill for 9 years and had been treated with a broad range of antibiotics and supplements for 7 years. She was chronically ill at the time of completing the Survey. Her GSQ-30 score, indicating her symptom load, was 78 out of 120. Her worst symptoms were backache, stiff or painful neck, muscle aches or pains, joint pain or swelling, muscle weakness, trouble falling or staying asleep, not feeling rested on wakening, shooting/stabbing or burning pain, and balance problems, or sense of the room spinning.
She reported that she was advised not to take the vaccine by her doctor as “it would probably make things worse.” She had not taken the vaccine at the time of the Survey.
A 13-year-old girl without a history of a tick bite or rash. Her Lyme disease test was positive for 5 of 10 IgG bands, and she had been ill for 2 months prior to treatment. She was treated for 3 months with doxycycline followed by clarithromycin. She reports being chronically ill despite 3 months of antibiotics. Yet, her GSQ-30 score was 0. She had not been advised for or against the COVID-19 vaccine but said “I do not feel safe to take it since my Lyme conditions are still not resolved.”
The ages of individuals with a history of Lyme disease could be younger (see case 2) or older
An 85-year-old man with a history of a deer tick bite, erythema migrans rash, and swollen knee. He was not sure which tests were positive, but had been treated with 1 month of doxycycline and supplements. He had been ill for at least 3 years, but was not chronically ill at the time he completed the Survey. His worst symptoms were backache, muscle weakness, feeling fatigued or having low energy, feeling worse after normal physical activity, numbness or tingling, skin or muscle twitching, balance problems or sense of the room spinning, changes in visual clarity or trouble focusing, bladder discomfort or change in urination, lightheaded or uncomfortable on standing, trouble finding words or retrieving words, trouble with memory, and lower speed of thinking. His GSQ-30 score was 78 out of 120.
Some individuals with a history of Lyme disease had not been treated with antibiotics
A 77-year-old woman with a history of a deer tick bite, erythema migrans rash, and a swollen knee. She had a history of a positive Lyme disease test, but was not sure which test was positive. She described her Lyme disease as severe. She had been ill for 10 years at the time of the Survey and had also been diagnosed with chronic fatigue. She had taken a wide range of supplements, but never antibiotics. Her GSQ-30 score was far lower than some others, with 14 out of 120.
A 16-year-old girl with a history of a swollen knee, but no tick bite or rash. She had potentially been exposed to ticks through recreation, vacation, interacting with dogs, and hiking. She reported a history of a positive Lyme disease test and had also been diagnosed with chronic fatigue. She had been ill for 3 years. She was treated with herbal medicine, but not antibiotics. She had not been advised for or against the vaccine by her doctor. Her GSQ-30 score was 88 out of 120, with her worst symptoms including fatigue or having low energy, feeling worse after normal physical activity, having trouble falling or staying asleep, needing more sleep than usual, not feeling rested on wakening, numbness or tingling, skin or muscle twitching, discomfort with normal light or sound, balance problems or sense of the room spinning, feeling irritable, sad, feeling panicky, anxious, or worried, and having trouble finding or retrieving words.
Lyme disease in patients without COVID-19
Question: What is the clinical presentation of someone with a history of Lyme disease who has not contracted COVID-19 or taken the COVID-19 vaccine?
Findings: This cross-sectional Survey reveals a high symptom burden in 289 individuals with a history of Lyme Disease who had not contracted COVID-19 or taken the COVID-19 vaccine. They had been ill for an average of 8.1 years. Of those who were treated with antibiotics, approximately three in five were treated for at least a year. Almost four in five (78%) were chronically ill at the time of the Survey. Their average burden of illness was high, with a GSQ score of 52 out of 120, which was higher than individuals with a history of depression, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS).
Meaning: Individuals with a history of Lyme disease can report a high burden of symptoms for years despite antibiotic treatment, even without contracting COVID-19 or taking the COVID-19 vaccine.
Links to Lyme and COVID-19 series
- Severity of Lyme disease in a COVID-19 pandemic
- A 16-year-old girl and a 28-year-old woman with a history of Lyme disease shared their experiences after contracting COVID-19 – case discussion
- The experiences of individuals with a history of Lyme disease who contracted COVID-19
- 28-year-old woman with a history of Lyme disease describes side effects following her COVID-19 vaccine – a case discussion
- Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines in individuals with Lyme disease
- A 45-year-old woman who has been hesitant to take the COVID-19 vaccine. Next Lyme science blog
- Concerns of individuals with a history of Lyme disease who have been hesitant or have refused to take the vaccine. next Lyme science blog