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LYME SCI: Post-infectious fatigue and your vagus nerve

0 3 years ago

…This was after 10 months of being referred to many pediatric specialists, none of whom could find an answer to her mysterious illness.

One of the hallmarks of ME/CFS is post-exertional malaise—profound fatigue following activity that is not restored by rest. Fatigue is also the most common symptom reported in patients with Lyme disease. (Aucott 2013, Johnson 2014)

At the time of my daughter’s diagnosis, she was mostly bedbound. An hour of homework would require a week of recovery. She had many symptoms of Lyme disease (fatigue, headache, light sensitivity, memory loss, heart block, POTS, swollen knee, muscle pain, nausea…the list goes on) but three separate standard tests for Lyme were negative.

In the absence of a definitive diagnosis, patients are often lumped into the category of ME/CFS—a complex and disabling syndrome. First defined by the CDC in 1988, the symptoms of ME/CFS have been recorded for centuries. (Holmes, 1988)

The million-dollar question?

There is no question that many infectious agents can trigger chronic illness. Past pandemics with infection-triggered chronic fatigue include: Russian influenza 1889, polio 1916, SARS-CoV-1 2003, Zika 2015, Ebola 2016, and more recently, COVID 2019.

But not everyone who contracts these diseases becomes chronically ill. As PolyBio researcher Amy Proal, PhD, said at the 2021 LymeMind conference, “The million-dollar question is why? Why do some patients go on to develop long-term, chronic symptoms and others do not?”

Even more puzzling is why do patients infected with completely different pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites) have so many of the same flu-like symptoms?

For example, the pathogens that cause COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2, a virus) and Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi, a bacterium) are vastly different. However, the chronic symptoms they leave behind are nearly identical: fatigue, brain fog, headaches, sensory issues, cognitive impairment, memory loss, sleep impairment, heart issues, muscle and joint aches/pain. The primary difference here being the respiratory symptoms among those with COVID-19. (Proal & VanElzakker 2021)

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