Lyme Disease’s Scary Connection with Hepatitis
Lyme disease, an illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, can be acquired after being bitten by an infected tick. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, a condition that can have many different causes, such as alcoholism, a virus or autoimmune disease. Although Lyme and hepatitis seem to be entirely different health conditions, researchers are finding an insidious link between the two – particularly for those already living with chronic hepatitis.
Describing inflammation of the liver, hepatitis is most commonly caused by a viral infection – like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C. Other causes include:
- autoimmune hepatitis, a disease occurring when the body makes antibodies that damage liver cells
- medications, drugs, toxins or alcohol that cause inflammation in the liver
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 4.4 million Americans living with chronic hepatitis, and many more are unaware that they have it. While some forms are preventable, treatment options vary depending on what form of hepatitis is diagnosed, and what caused it. If hepatitis becomes chronic, advanced liver disease can occur. Advanced liver disease is likely to cause permanent liver damage and may even lead to liver cancer or liver failure. In addition, those with one form of hepatitis are vulnerable to other sources of hepatitis. If more than one type of hepatitis co-exist, the rate of progression and severity of disease is accelerated.
Lyme Disease Phases
Lyme disease is not genetic, is not spread between people nor is it acquired from drugs or alcohol. Instead, this tick-borne illness only begins after being bitten by an infected tick.
Lyme disease progresses in three phases – affecting different areas of the body as the illness advances.
- Early phase – Beginning at the site of the tick bite, the first phase starts where the bacteria enter the body through the skin. Symptoms may include an expanding, circular, red rash and flu-like symptoms with or without rash including fatigue, headache, stiff neck, fever, chills, muscle and joint pain and swollen lymph nodes. In some cases, there are no noticeable symptoms in this early phase.
- Early disseminated infection – If not diagnosed and treated in the early phase, infection over the next few weeks to months can progress and affect the skin, joints, nervous system and heart. Symptoms in this second phase may include an expanding rash at the bite site; additional rash locations; pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms or legs; paralysis of facial muscles; continuance of headaches or fainting; poor memory and difficulty concentrating, conjunctivitis or eye tissue damage; brief episodes of joint pain, redness and swelling (especially the knee); palpitations or heart problems.
- Late disease – If not effectively treated, damage to the joints, nerves and brain may develop months to years after becoming infected with Lyme disease. The last and most serious stage of the disease, late stage symptoms may include arthritis – usually the knee with redness, swelling and fluid buildup; numbness and tingling in the feet, hands or back; extreme fatigue; difficulty controlling facial muscles – including difficulty speaking; problems with memory, mood or sleep; and heart problems – including pericarditis.
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