A Cardiologist in Kingston, Ontario warns health care professionals in Canada to be aware of a serious complication of Lyme disease. The bacteria can start attacking the heart before doctors realize what’s the cause of several symptoms.
Lyme Carditis Can Be Easily Treated – But Doctors Must Act Fast
Dr. Adrian Baranchuk from the Kingston General Hospital Research Institute says that some patients cand develop a rare condition called Lyme carditis. The bacteria disturb the electrical system of the heart. This is why Canadian doctors must recognize the symptoms in the early stage. They have to start treating the patient, even if they don’t have the results to confirm infection with Lyme.
The main carrier of Lyme disease is the tick. It spreads bacteria that causes fever, fatigue, joint pain and other symptoms. If the bacteria travel through the blood and reaches the heart, it causes inflammation and disrupts the electrical system of the heart.
The condition is called “heart block,” as it slows the heartbeat. It causes the following symptoms: dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. If not treated, the heart completely shuts down.
Dr. Baranchuk explains he’s had many patients come with heart block symptoms in the last 18 months, a great majority being of age 50 and all went on outdoor activities like camping or hiking. Dr. Baranchuk said:
“One of the things we noticed was each one of them had attended a different ER two to three times before anyone thought about this condition.”
Lyme carditis is difficult to diagnose because of its rarity. Lyme disease also has vague symptoms that are similar to the flu. Dr. Baranchuck is worried that there are other cases that haven’t yet been reported:
“We have the suspicion that there are way more cases than are reported because doctors are failing to report it.”
Lyme bacteria can be killed with antibiotics. Dr. Baranchuck published a paper in which he advises all Canadian health care workers to treat patients with unusual heart problems with antibiotics, even before getting the result that confirms Lyme infection.
If too late, the patients that don’t get antibiotics will need peacemakers. This is why he urges antibiotic treatment:
“These patients may not require pacemakers to be implanted. They can be treated with IV antibiotics for 10 to 12 days, and the electricity of the heart will recover completely forever.”
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.