If you're well enough to brave the hot weather, you need to be on alert for more than sunburn and heat stroke -- you also need to watch for ticks.
Ticks cause Lyme disease, which has a lot of symptoms in common with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Some doctors believe Lyme can trigger ME/CFS, but this is controversial. What we do know, however, is that Lyme's effect on the immune system is very similar to ME/CFS.
Even a healthy immune system can't defeat Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, but it tries really hard. That means the immune system switches into overdrive and starts attacking everything it can -- your joints, your organs, and your nervous system. Chronic immune activation depletes the body's resources as well. Some doctors say Lyme disease is frequently misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or ME/CFS because they're so hard to tell apart.
In ME/CFS, the immune system is chronically activated, but so far there's no widely accepted explanation for why. While it's not as common a belief, some researchers do suspect infection may be behind some cases of fibromyalgia as well, and we know fibromyalgia involves immune system dysregulation.
I recently heard from a man I used to work with who's always been extremely athletic and outdoorsy. He was a big strapping guy with a booming voice and seemingly endless energy. He contacted me because he'd found out about my illness and wanted to let me know he'd been wiped out by Lyme. It's hard to imagine that bulldozer of a man laid out by illness, but he is.
So if the strongest immune system can't handle Lyme, what do you suppose it would do to us? The symptoms -- which are almost identical to ours -- would almost certainly compound our existing problems and add a whole new set of them as well. One ME/CFS researcher who focuses on infectious agents says the subgroup of patients with Lyme are the hardest ones to treat.
That covers why you don't want it, so how do you prevent it? My About.com colleague Carol Eustice, Guide to Arthritis, has some excellent resources for you:
I learned some great information from those articles that I'll use to protect myself and my children when we're out in the woods this summer.
Have you had Lyme disease? Do you believe it triggered fibromyalgia or ME/CFS? Have you found effective treatments? Leave your comments below!
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