Our View: Don’t dismiss signs of Lyme disease

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Symptoms of Lyme disease
Early signs include:

Chills, fever, muscle and joint pain, weakness of facial muscles, and heart irregularities
A red, expanding skin rash can, but does not always appear, up to 30 days after a bite
Untreated symptoms include:
- Arthritis
- Nervous system complications
Source: California Department of Public Health

It’s a little bug with a life changing bite.
Ticks carrying Lyme disease have debilitated many. Yet those who are bitten and infected often go uncounted or misdiagnosed for years.
The misdiagnosis and lack of accurate counting of those with Lyme disease needs to stop now in public and private medical communities.
Over the years, the Journal has featured those who contracted Lyme disease. Often the stories are the same. The person had flu-like symptoms that turned into chronic health problems because they were misdiagnosed.
Most recently Auburn resident Virginia Ward shared her story of bouncing from one well-known doctor to the next for 10 years until she was properly diagnosed. Now, with the right treatment, she can go months without pain. That wasn’t possible before her proper care, Ward said.
“I went to so many well-known doctors and all I knew, most of the time I was in pain and had muscle and joint pain,” Ward told the Journal. “Even some well-known rheumatologists didn’t even know what it was. That’s what’s scary – the widespread ignorance in the medical circles about Lyme disease.”
It took seven years for Auburn resident and business owner Kathleen Harris to get the treatment for Lyme disease she needed. Harris said there are some doctors who view Lyme disease as a long-term chronic disease, while others think if symptoms don’t go away after two to four weeks that the patient is making it up or it’s in their mind.
The latter is extremely poor patient care and shows a terrible lack of concern for the person feeling ill. Careful review and questioning of a patient is what’s needed now both at the public health level in the county and in the private medical field.
If there is not enough material or education for doctors to use when it comes to diagnosis, then it should be sought out. This is especially important for those practicing in communities like Auburn, where many residents are active on trails that are filled with ticks carrying the disease.
With a recent report that the western black-legged tick is out in higher amounts than normal in our area, it should be mandatory for doctors and nurses to ask a patient who comes in with symptoms of Lyme disease if they have been outdoors, if their pets have had ticks or other questions that could lead to possible testing and treatment for Lyme disease.
Often it seems the effort to raise awareness of ticks on the trails and the impact of Lyme disease is well promoted through press releases to alert the public that tick season has begun. Or, as is the case this year, a report was released warning of an increase in the tick population.
So it’s surprising and, in some ways, careless that the effort to diagnosis and treat it seems to fall to the wayside at the expense of people’s health.
Medical professionals who don’t take the disease seriously need to start. The silent, undiagnosed community of victims with Lyme disease shouldn’t have to suffer silently anymore.