After hearing a few people mention being diagnosed with fibromyalgia after being treated for Lyme disease, I started looking for articles about studies that explore any connections between the two (see library by subject under Lyme Disease). A few questions had come to mind:
- Could a bacterial infection be a trigger for fibromyalgia? Viruses, such as Epstein-Barr, have been explored, but I have not heard much about bacterial causes.
- Are similar neurological systems affected?
- In Lyme disease, are pain processing systems altered?
- Can the treatment for Lyme disease be a trigger for fibromyalgia?
So far the most interesting thing about looking at “chronic Lyme disease” and fibromyalgia side-by-side is the description of symptoms – chronic pain, fatigue, neurocognitive and behavioral symptoms (memory and concentration symptoms), neurologic and rheumatologic disease (see Lantos in Library by Subject). Anyone with fibromyalgia will recognize these symptoms, but it’s actually a description of “chronic Lyme disease.” The problem is, most doctors (apparently) don’t believe there is such a thing as “chronic Lyme disease” because there is no evidence of Lyme disease in blood tests.
Researchers are still trying to define what exactly is happening to some patients after they are treated for Lyme disease. While physicians refute “chronic Lyme disease,” they don’t seem to have the same reservations about “post-Lyme disease symptoms,” which are essentially the same as above: chronic pain, headache, neck and backache, fatigue, irritability, cognitive dysfunction. I am having a very hard time understanding the difference between these two except that people with diagnosed “chronic Lyme disease” are sometimes prescribed long term antibiotic treatment which, according to several studies, are not only not effective, but dangerous, causing a high percentage of thromboembolic events and drug-induced gallbladder disease, severe allergic reactions, and line sepsis (since much of the antibiotic therapy was intravenous). The results of extended antibiotic therapy were no different from the results of placebo therapy in these patients, so the risks far outweighed the benefits.
My question then becomes: Are physicians diagnosing people who have had Lyme disease with fibromyalgia as a last resort, given the controversy over whether “chronic Lyme disease” is an actual thing and given the identical nature of the symptoms. Either way, it doesn’t sound like there’s a cure for “chronic Lyme disease” or “post-Lyme disease symptoms,” just like fibromyalgia…at least so far.