Seeking and providing care for chronic ailments of any kind is rife with uncertainties and unanswered questions. As a patient, you want as close to a guarantee as you can get from your medical provider that the time, money and effort you’re pouring into your recovery is worth it. As a provider, I know that every case is different and that it’s irresponsible to make guarantees of any kind other than that I’ll do my best. Medicine is as much art as it is science; complex conditions may resolve miraculously and simple acute ailments may be frustratingly untreatable. Good training and clinical experience creates expertise and improves outcomes but ultimately it may not be possible for everything to resolve.
So when patients come to me and say they’re looking for a solution for their symptoms of chronic Lyme disease it’s important to get expectations very clear.
As I’ve written before, beyond the 2-week window of acute exposure where antibiotics may be effective we can no longer use the term cure. Instead we use remission. While some patients will have their symptoms evaporate and never return, others may require some kind of ongoing treatment in order to maintain their health. This could be extremely mild, like following a moderate diet and performing a few minutes of daily breathing exercises; or it could mean that they need to use herbal medicines for a prolonged period of time, treating their bodies to prevent relapse and improve overall health.
While the very existence of chronic Lyme disease is controversial, and many patients are told by their providers that they have “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” (which I’ve discussed in a different post), their symptoms often do not abate and in fact may worsen significantly over the estimated 6-month recovery window if they are denied proper treatment.
Typically, Lyme patients at our clinic notice significant recovery in one or more areas within the first month of treatment. This can be as significant as a reduction or elimination of pain; less air hunger; the restoration of a functioning and regular digestive system; or heightened mental clarity. With continued treatment, more systems are restored and patients experience more vitality returning to their lives.
In my clinical experience, the longer someone has been infected by Borrelia and its ilk, the longer they can expect to take to recover. This can be prolonged by many factors: age, stress, other injuries or health concerns, and a history of unhelpful interventions such as prolonged antibiotic use or unnecessary surgical procedures.
In some exceptional cases a full course of Lyme treatment can be resolved in as few as one to three months. In most others, it will take six months to three years. Borrelia and its coinfections can cause degenerative changes in every system of the body that require proper treatment, consistency and time to heal.
Seasonal and environmental factors also play a role. Many patients are susceptible to cold, damp climates and especially the mold exposure that can come from living in them. As a matter of course, we always take extra care in the wintertime of the Pacific Northwest to protect the immune system and keep blood circulation to the extremities adequate. The road to remission is not always a straight line and it’s normal to experience plateaus or setbacks along the way back to health.
One of my favorite things in clinic is to let a patient know that I’m considering them in remission. This is like a graduation from care to return to “normal” life and it usually means the patient is able to work, play, exercise and take on new projects. It also means that they’ll be tested by life’s stresses and may need to return to the clinic in the future. Major events like accidents, traumas and new infections can cause symptoms to flare and additional care may be necessary. But when it comes around a second time, it’s usually faster and easier to treat, especially when it’s addressed promptly.
I hope you found this post informative and helpful. If you have any questions please ask away in the comments or send the clinic a message via our contact page.