YORK, PA-—'Tis the season for ticks; bugs that can bite and transmit debilitating diseases. Lyme is the most well known, and with that comes other ailments like Cat Scratch Fever & even a form of Malaria.
Members of the York Lyme Disease Support group are very familiar with the illnesses & the symptoms.
"I started steadily getting tired, very tired, the pain came, so a gradual few months decline," says Gail Sheffer, who heads the group.
Fatigue, stiffness, joint pain, headaches, even seizures are common.
However, a Lyme Disease Diagnosis is not so common. Many people see as many as a dozen doctors before getting the treatment they need.
Before Sheffer got the answers she needed, she was told she was depressed, just needed to exercise and was having mid-life issues.
"When I got sick & could no longer do dishes, get to work, do laundry, it's like, no, no, no you're not listening, something is really wrong, physically wrong, this is not in my head," says Sheffer.
Wanda Stibitz also suffers from Lyme Disease, which went undiagnosed for months.
"Difficulty walking, speaking & I thought I was getting Alzheimer's Disease, I couldn't think straight, seizures, I went to the emergency room and was even told I had a brain tumor," says Stibitz.
"I see a lot of patients who've seen 5 or 6, 8 or 10 different doctors," says Dr. Richard Daly, who has a family practice in York.
Roughly one third of his patients never develop the telltale bullseye rash associated with Lyme Disease. In addition, their traditional blood tests come back negative.
"I'll see very frequently that we test them & we can't find a positive test & I'll put them on a trial of medicines & see if they get better & very frequently they do," Dr. Daly says.
That's something not many physicians feel comfortable doing. Dr. Daly says he looks at the symptom complex of Lyme, along with the tests. Tests that often come back negative because the longer Lyme goes untreated in the body, the more it destroys the immune system.
"The local blood tests were not finding it because it had totally destroyed my immune system and it looks for antibodies that your body creates to fight off the disease, I had none," Stibitz says.
Dr. Daly says Western Blot blood tests are more in depth & effective in detecting Lyme Disease, but, have to be specially ordered. Treating Lyme can require lengthy antibiotic therapy; not recommended by the Infectious Disease Society of America because of increasing drug resistance. That's why many doctors simply won't treat it.
"I see patients all the time who had 30 days of antibiotic, went back to the doctor, asked, begged for more and they didn't get any, so they got through a couple more weeks, I ended up treating them a little longer & they were better," says Dr. Daly.
"You treat tuberculosis & HIV with long term treatments, why not Lyme? If the symptoms are there, you've got to treat," Stibitz says.
"Do not accept the fact that it's all in your head because it's not," says Sheffer.
Dr. Daly says he sees no other effects the antibiotics have on the body aside from killing bacteria.
Members of the York Lyme Disease Support group hope more physicians will become better educated in treating the disease.
They meet the third Sunday of every month. For more information about the group, call (717) 292-5324 or (717) 225-6537.