In a small number but growing number of cases, people in the U.S. have suffered severe bacterial infections, bone damage or a life-threatening condition called septic shock — all because of treatments they received for a condition called “chronic Lyme disease.”
But there is no test for “chronic Lyme disease,” and no treatments have been proven to be effective in treating the illness, according to a new report on some of these cases. In fact, experts in treating infectious diseases don’t support using the term “chronic Lyme,” Dr. Christina Nelson, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a co-author of that new report, wrote in an email to Live Science.
Patients may be given a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease by health care providers at complementary and alternative medicine clinics, after seeing conventional medical doctors who have not been able to treat their symptoms, the report said. Fatigue, pain and neurological problems are all symptoms reported by people who have gotten a diagnosis of chronic Lyme. [27 Devastating Infectious Diseases]
The health care providers who diagnose these patients typically treat them with prolonged courses of antibiotics, lasting months or even years, the report said. That happens even though at least five well-done studies have shown that such courses of antibiotics do not help people who have this diagnosis, according to the report. Moreover, taking antibiotics for that long can result in serious harm, including death.
“Incorrect diagnosis of Lyme disease and treatment with long-term antibiotics can have devastating effects,” Nelson said. People who have been diagnosed with or treated for chronic Lyme disease should consider getting a second opinion to be evaluated for other conditions, she said.