Lyme disease isn’t always easily detectable

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tick up close
Closeup of a an adult female deer tick.

Hopefully, by now you are aware of the dangers ticks can cause to humans and livestock. Recently, there have been many articles published on this topic. The threat from tick vectoring diseases have steadily increased over the years, and this trend will more than likely continue as new tick species invade our land. 

This year, when out checking cattle, fixing fence lines or feeding hay, take caution from my tale and be observant for ticks and be proactive in preventing a tick-vectored disease. 

Through sharing my Lyme disease story and symptoms during programs and events over the past few years, I have successfully helped multiple farmers get an accurate Lyme disease diagnosis after they had been feeling ill for an extended period without knowing why. 

It is my hope that this article may help you or someone you know who has been suffering from an unknown illness by providing answers with a firsthand description of symptoms caused by Lyme disease. 

My experience with Lyme disease had a detrimental effect on me, my former spouse and my family. Both my ex-wife and I contracted the neurological disease in late 2018. Even though we have both recovered, my family dynamics have been forever changed. 

Sick

Toward the end of 2018, we started feeling off or sick. At first, we both dismissed how we felt as either a cold or a virus. However, as time went by, we never recovered from the initial sickness and slowly our health deteriorated. 

My symptoms included severe fatigue, increased blood pressure, weak muscles, extreme light-headedness and it was hard to sit up for extended periods of time. I had no energy — zero. 

I had to lay down to rest constantly and could only work for a couple of hours at a time before feeling completely exhausted. A lot. I felt disconnected, like my head was in a constant state of fog, a thick “can’t see two feet in front of you” type of fog. Also, when walking downstairs, it felt like my knees or legs would give out and I would come crashing down the steps at any given moment. 

Severe

These symptoms were not fun, and it was near impossible to keep up with my farm chores. Only working an hour or two at a time, I quickly fell behind. 

She exhibited most of the same symptoms, but eventually, her symptoms became more severe. She developed Bell’s palsy and eventually, Lyme meningitis. It was not until she was diagnosed with Lyme meningitis that we finally got answers to what was affecting our health. 

Treatment

We never developed the bulls-eye rash associated with Lyme disease, nor could we recall even having a black-legged tick on us (the tick vectoring Lyme disease, also known as a deer tick). 

Before the accurate diagnosis, via spinal tap due to meningitis, the standard Lyme disease test came back negative and our diagnosis kept coming back as the same thing, either a sinus or ear infection. 

After I personally took antibiotics for 78 days, I was finally given a prescription of doxycycline, the antibiotic for Lyme disease, for a 28-day cycle. Toward the end of my 28th day, I finally started to feel better after four months of barely functioning. 

Being able to function again was such a huge relief and blessing. Life seemed normal again. 

Prevention

During my ordeal with Lyme disease, I learned there was an outbreak where I live. Now, when I am outside, I make sure I take preventive measures, so I do not contract the disease again. This experience has given me tremendous respect for tick vector diseases, as well as those animals who consume these ticks — like opossums. 

My advice is, whenever you are outside, especially in wooded or high grass areas like your pastures, protect yourself from ticks and always check yourself when you come back inside. My experience with Lyme disease is, no matter how healthy you are, this disease will bring you down rapidly and affect every aspect of your life; and is potentially life-changing, as in my case.

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Marcus McCartney is an OSU Extension agriculture and natural resources educator in Washington County. Send questions or comments to Mccartney.138@osu.edu or write c/o Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem OH 44460.

1 COMMENT

  1. CDC testing guidelines are extremely flawed and leave a lot of people without answers. That are better testing methods out there through independent labs, that are of course not medically recognized. Until the government and medical establishment decides to put patients over profits, which will most likely happen when enough accurate information is available and push from the right people happens, many will continue to be diagnosed and treated for a handful of other diseases when the root of it all is Lyme and other tick infections. Be aware!

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