Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria carried by blacklegged ticks, which live on deer and mice. People and pets get Lyme disease when they are bitten by the ticks, usually after walking in areas with tall grass, infested lawns or wooded areas frequented by large deer populations.
If Lyme disease is not properly diagnosed or treated correctly, it progresses and can cause harm to many different systems of the body. Lyme disease can lead to an individual becoming permanently disabled.
Symptoms of Lyme disease can appear months, weeks, and even years after the initial bite occurs. The disease progresses in stages. The first stage, from 3 – 30 days after being infected, is a rash centered on the site of the bite. The rash often looks like a bull’s eye, with a clear middle and a round red circle. It may expand over time and can be as big as 12 inches across.
Sometimes this rash can appear in locations other than the site of the bite. Flu-like symptoms occur around the same time that the rash becomes visible. The person feels achy and fatigued, runs a fever, and often suffers from headaches.
Lyme disease mimics many different diseases, with severe symptoms that cause the disease to be frequently misdiagnosed as a virus, arthritis, or migraine headaches, among other symptoms. Once the spiral-shaped bacterium enters the bloodstream, it burrows into human tissue and then changes its appearance, eluding detection by the immune system.
Researchers have found that in some cases, the bacterium assembles itself into groups, making infections chronic and very resistant to antibiotics. Other researchers believe that while antibiotics can destroy the bacteria, the infection causes the body’s immune system to become hyper-vigilant, triggering inflammation and possibly causing the immune system to attack itself, becoming an auto-immune disease.
If not treated, Lyme disease can lead to serious complications that range from heart problems, meningitis, Bell’s palsy (paralysis of a facial nerve), disabling joint pain and swelling, and impaired muscle movement. Liver inflammation and eye inflammation are also seen in untreated Lyme disease patients.
Lyme disease can also cause cognitive problems, including memory problems. Patients have spent years suffering from debilitating arthritis, extreme fatigue, and weakness mimicking “fibro fog,” memory loss, severe headaches, and more.
Treatment with antibiotics, usually two to four weeks, is usually effective. However, when symptoms are still present past the typical treatment time, a diagnosis of “post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLDS) also known as Chronic Lyme Disease, may be given. The cause of this is not yet known, although many believe the symptoms are the result of residual damage to tissues and the immune system.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC, but this does not capture every illness, only those that are reported.
Cognitive Dysfunction – including memory loss, short-term memory and difficulty with complex thought processes
Numbness – tingling or shooting pain or loss of feeling in the arms, face, hand or legs
Bell’s Palsy – a facial nerve becomes paralyzed, and the eye and mouth on the effected side of the face droops. Facial numbness may occur and there may be difficulty with hearing or vision.
Depression and Stress – coping with a long-term disease that is physically debilitating can lead to depression and anxiety. For disability insurance claims, the claimant must be careful that the insurance company does not use this as a means of putting a Lyme disease claim into the “Mental/Nervous” category in order to shorten the time period for benefits.
Cardio/Pulmonary Problems – When Lyme disease enters the heart, Lyme carditis occurs. This can interfere with the normal processes of the heart, and lead to something called “heart block” where the heart is not beating normally. This condition ranges from mild to moderate to severe, but it can progress rapidly.
According to the CDC, Lyme carditis occurs in approximately 1% of reported Lyme disease cases. However, an individual who is already suffering from heart disease could be at increased risk from Lyme disease. Lyme carditis is treated with antibiotics and some individuals may need a temporary pacemaker.
If you are suffering from the effects of Lyme disease and can no longer perform the material duties and tasks of your occupation, you may need to file a claim for long-term disability insurance. Contact an experienced disability attorney who has worked with other Lyme disease claimants to help you file a claim or fight for your benefits if you have been denied.
Call 877-LTD CLAIM (877-583-2524) to learn how we can help.
Please note Frankel & Newfield does not represent Social Security disability claim matters.
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