What if you - or a family member - were told by doctors for years that you were suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, which affects more than 5 million people worldwide. Imagine the fear as the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s started to affect you. And yet you were misdiagnosed - instead, you actually had a severe case of Lyme disease.
A recent article in Rolling Stone Magazine reported that actor and country music superstar Kris Kristofferson was told he had Alzheimer’s disease for more than five years and was only recently tested for Lyme disease. His wife Lisa told the magazine, “He was taking all these medications for things he doesn’t have, and they all have side effects.” But after just three weeks of Lyme treatments, the actor seems pretty much back to normal.
Lyme disease is caused by an infected blacklegged, or deer, tick. If left undetected or untreated, it can lead to a number of harmful side effects, including severe headaches, rashes, joint pain and swelling, heart palpitations, facial paralysis, dizziness, nerve pain, and memory loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Lyme disease can also cause side effects similar to those of Alzheimer’s disease, such as problems remembering names and/or words, slowed thinking, and difficulty following conversations. Kristofferson commented, “My brain is so destroyed...to me, it’s amazing I can still get up and go to the show.”
About 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme disease each year. And many in the medical community feel the disease is under-diagnosed and under-treated. Researchers cannot even agree on terminology. The diagnosis “chronic Lyme disease” (CLD) is sometimes used to describe both illness in people who have Lyme disease and symptoms in people who have no evidence of a current or past infection with the Lyme bacterium. There’s even some evidence that suggests Lyme disease can lead to Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s estimated that up to 5 percent of those misdiagnosed with Alzheimer’s have a treatable brain condition. The take home message for all of this is that Alzheimer’s has to be diagnosed only after a thorough investigation, including a patient’s history, blood tests, and brain imaging.
The source material for this article originally appeared on nextavenue.org.