Chronic Lyme disease symptoms persist even with prolonged use of antibiotics, according to the research. In a study, researchers found that 12 weeks of antibiotics treatment was ineffective at combating long-term symptoms of Lyme disease among 280 patients. The study is known as PLEASE, and it is the largest study of its kind to follow patients with chronic Lyme disease symptoms. The study aimed to look at the effectiveness of two antibiotic regimes that were both shown to be ineffective.
After 12 weeks of being on doxycycline, 86 volunteers completed questionnaires about their quality of life and on average scored 35 out of maximum 61 points (the highest quality of life). After 12 weeks of the combination antibiotics clarithromycin and hydroxychloroquine, among 96 patients the average score was 35.6. Lastly, the placebo group reported an average score of 34.8, showing no real difference between antibiotics and placebo.
Senior author Dr. Bart Jan Kullberg said, “The patients reported no benefit of prolonged antibiotics on any of the scales, compared to those who received placebo.”
Active Lyme disease was not shown to cause the symptoms and, in fact, “we don’t really know what is the cause of this syndrome,” explained Kullberg. “It could be an immune response to the prior infection, sensitization to the infection, or genetic variation that makes them sensitive to prolonged symptoms after an infection. But the answer may not be found in prescribing a prolonged course of antibiotics,” Kullberg continued.
Dr. Charles Ericsson, head of clinical infectious diseases at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and a member of the medical staff at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center in Houston, added, “This is sort of a further nail in the coffin in the controversy over chronic Lyme disease, or whatever you want to call it when people who have had Lyme disease have residual symptomatology. You can treat the inciting agent until the cows come home and nothing will change. You have to find a way to control this dysregulated immune system. We clearly need more research into how to deal with patients with this disease.”
Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are similar to symptoms of Lyme disease at its onset. The main difference is, in chronic Lyme disease the symptoms stick around for much longer. Symptoms may appear in episodes or may last for quite some. Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease include fatigue, restless sleep, pain, aching joints or muscles, pain or swelling of the joints, decreased short memory or lack of concentration, and speech problems.
Long-term complications of chronic Lyme disease can affect a person’s mobility or cognitive function. It can also drastically change a person’s lifestyle and add on emotional stress. The frustration of living with such symptoms can have patients trying out untested and unproven alternative remedies, which prove to be unsuccessful. Prior to starting any medications, always speak to your doctor in order to reduce the risk of toxic effects.
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