Lyme disease, particularly with chronic or late-stage symptoms, can be a horribly frustrating and debilitating illness. Symptoms can persist despite complicated treatment regimens; therapies that seem successful at first may become less effective over time; and medications that work for some appear to have no effect for others. Add to that the high cost of treatment, the complicating challenges of co-infections, and insufficient insurance coverage for both traditional and alternative treatment, and it quickly becomes apparent why clinical studies offer potential for patients who are still suffering.
For many patients, the promise of participating in a clinical trial is not just the hope for new discoveries but a more immediate opportunity to access treatment options they may not otherwise be able to secure or afford. But is clinical research the “holy grail” for these patients who are seeking another option? What are the pros and cons of clinical research? What do you need to know?
Bay Area Lyme at 2017 Association of Environmental and Outdoor Educators Annual Conference in La Honda, CA
Spreading awareness about Lyme and tick-borne infections among high-risk groups has been a key objective for our growing education outreach program at Bay Area Lyme Foundation and the Association for Environmental and Outdoor Educators (AEOE) has been part of our overall education outreach strategy. For the last three years, Bay Area Lyme has attended AEOE’s annual spring conference, raising awareness about Lyme and teaching professional naturalists, outdoor educators, and science teachers how to protect both themselves and the children they serve against Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
On Wednesday, March 8, Dr. Sunjya Schweig and his wife, Lia Gaertner, together gave a deeply affecting and informative presentation sharing their personal and professional experiences with Lyme disease. The talk was part of the ongoing Distinguished Speaker Series. What follows is a synopsis of some of the highlights.
Lia Gaertner, a member of the Bay Area Lyme Foundation Science Committee, and Dr. Schweig, who is on the foundation’s Advisory Board, bring a wealth of professional expertise and knowledge to the table. But their story starts on a personal note, for it was just one month after Dr. Schweig started working in private practice that Lia — after 10 years of battling serious illness, unexplained symptoms, and debilitating physical and mental challenges — was finally diagnosed with Lyme disease. Together, the couple took what they describe wryly as a “rapid descent together down a rabbit hole” – a deep dive into Lyme, trying to learn as much as possible for their survival.
While the high-tech business sector is so fast-paced that every day offers valuable progress, my days as CEO in this industry still left me wanting to do more. As many of you can appreciate, I longed to truly make a difference in the lives of other people. And although I did get incredible satisfaction from our company’s progress, I wanted my contribution to society to be more than helping to improve the speed and efficiency of the business world.
So, I decided to make a major life change.
As I considered a range of non-profit opportunities, I focused on identifying a role that would allow me to continue the fast-pace I was used to. It was also important that I use the leadership, operations, marketing and sales skills I had learned and honed through years climbing the ranks of Oracle and helping to start and run several other software companies.
Lyme disease is a nationally notifiable disease, recognized and tracked by the federal government Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for surveillance purposes. Surveillance data provides important information for assessing public health risks and allocating research dollars. Per the CDC, “The goal of Lyme disease surveillance is not to capture every case, but to systematically gather and analyze public health data in a way that enables public health officials to look for trends and take actions to reduce disease and improve public health.” However, these statistics have important implications for individual patients as well.
In this post, Bay Area Lyme Research Grant Director and Advisory Board Member Wendy Adamsdiscusses some important changes to the CDC definitions of Lyme disease and some concerning implications for patients in the state of California.
The case definition for Lyme disease is only intended to be used to determine cases for surveillance purposes and not to represent the full incidence of Lyme in a given area. However, this subtlety is often confusing for doctors who see these low case numbers as proof that they do not need to consider a Lyme diagnosis in CA. The low numbers also are convenient for insurance companies who inappropriately use this narrow definition as diagnostic criteria to deny coverage for patients whose cases don’t meet the definition.
It’s All In Your Head. …Or is it? A Physician’s Perspective
Guest post: Dr. Elena Frid, MD
This week, we feature a guest post from Dr. Elena Frid, a board-certified NYC neurologist and specialist in Lyme disease and other vector-borne diseases. Dr. Frid has been recognized by her peers and patients for her innovative diagnostic methods and treatment regiments for a wide array of complex neuro-Lyme manifestations which often mimic other illnesses including multiple sclerosis (MS), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), various learning disabilities, Autism, Arthritis, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinsons, anxiety/depression, intractable headaches, dizziness, insomnia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) behavior, ticks and many more. Here, she shares her perspective on the complexities of treating these complex illnesses.
Over the years, I have seen numerous patients who complain of many neurologic and psychiatric conditions. Often, when a patient complains of more than one or two problems, many physicians can get overwhelmed. It is difficult to treat a patient who seems to have a multitude of problems that, at first glance, may not appear to be related. Part of the issue is that medicine is moving in the direction of treating symptoms, and not the underlying cause of the problem.
Sharane Dorrah is on a mission … A passionate hiker, mountain biker, skier, and general outdoors enthusiast who suffered years of debilitating illness due to the unfortunate bite of a Lyme-infected tick, Sharane is determined to ensure that the rest of the world avoid her nightmare through greater awareness and protection.
The company she launched this past year, Peskys, offers fashionable performance activewear instilled with an EPA-approved insect repellent to ward off a wide range of “pesky” bugs that can carry serious diseases. Sharane explains, “Sounds dramatic, I know… [but] I’m on a mission to save lives by giving a fashionable option for protection against bites from those pesky bugs that can carry not only Lyme, but also Zika, West Nile, and all those other ‘bug diseases.’ I’m opening my big mouth and creating awareness. And I’m donating protective clothing and other items to children because they are the most at risk for some of these diseases.”
Sharane’s tactics are intriguing. Certainly the spread and the number of serious diseases like Lyme, Zika, and West Nile have forced the issue into the minds of more people; and yet, apprehension or lack of enthusiasm about the preventive tools available — such as chemical sprays, seemingly excessive coverup or avoidance tactics, etc. — mean that far too many of us who love the outdoors remain at risk. Enter this new concept: “performance apparel reinvented into sophisticated style options that meet the demands of day-to-day urban and outdoor active living. Pesky’s insect repellent apparel options perform equally well on the hiking trail as they do pool-side, at the farmer’s market, or in the backyard. They’ll ward off the worst of the season’s mosquitoes and ticks, but they do it without sacrificing style.”
Following on our story about financial resources for Lyme patients, we received this submission from Eric Minghella, an Outreach Coordinator for the Disability Benefits Help Center, offering to help clarify the process of applying for coverage.
“I came across the Bay Area Lyme Foundation this morning and I was so impressed by the work you do for people who have been affected by Lyme Disease. The resources and awareness you provide for families in need are so valuable and very much needed. I was wondering if I could contribute to the Bay Area Lyme Foundation by writing an article on applying for Social Security benefits with Lyme Disease. I work for Disability benefits help and I know that the process can be very confusing.”
As many know, treatment for and recovery from Lyme disease can be a long and costly process for those who suffer chronic symptoms. Applying for financial support can be a perplexing and tiresome endeavor, however, there are resources to assist you and you may find answers here.
Lyme disease, if treated early, can usually be successfully eradicated with antibiotics. Unfortunately, as many patients know, if it is not diagnosed early, it can cause debilitating sickness and a myriad of symptoms that are much harder to treat. And not all treatments are covered by insurance, making the whole experience potentially very financially as well as physically draining.
One of the questions we often get is about financial support. Bay Area Lyme Foundation is a research organization, hoping to accelerate the discovery of new, more effective — and less costly! — treatments and diagnostics, but unfortunately is not able to provide support for individual cases. However, there are other places to go for help. There are many organizations doing great work to help support those suffering from Lyme, in fact, a growing number as awareness spreads about this pernicious disease. What follows is a partial list, if you know of others, please do share.
New National Lyme Disease Biobank Aims to Accelerate Lyme Disease Research by Making Lyme Patient Samples From the East Coast, West Coast, and Midwest Available to Researchers
Qualified researchers now have one-stop access to patient samples from Long Island, San Francisco Bay Area, Martha’s Vineyard, and Marshfield, Wisc.
Portola Valley, Calif., January 24, 2017 – Bay Area Lyme Foundation, a national organization funding research to make Lyme disease easy to diagnose and simple to cure, announces the launch of the Lyme Disease Biobank, which is the first program to provide researchers with blood and urine samples from people with acute Lyme disease from multiple regions across the country, including the East Coast, West Coast and Upper Midwest.