Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) that ticks carry. Called deer ticks (or “seed ticks”), the arachnids that carry the bacteria are very small and can often escape notice. When the ticks bite mice that have Lyme disease and then bite a human, the disease is transmitted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), someone who has been bitten by a tick may not notice for a week or two that he has symptoms, which can include a flu-like feeling, a “bulls-eye rash” at the site of the tick bite and widespread joint pain. The disease is named for its 1975 discovery in children living in and around Lyme, Connecticut.
Abnormal Liver Function
In an article published in 2003 in Hepatology Journal (hepatology is the study of liver diseases), 115 people were studied who presented with the tell-tale rash from a tick bite. More than 40 percent of the patients exhibited at least one liver abnormality, and 27 percent of patients had tests that returned more than one liver abnormality. Of those patients who contracted the secondary stage of Lyme disease (early dissemination), 66 percent had elevated liver function results. When the disease moves from the first stage to the second, the spirochetes (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease) that were restricted to the blood pass into the tissues, and the disease becomes chronic.
“Lyme hepatitis occurs in 15 to 20 percent of patients,” says Dr. John Bleiweiss, a specialist in Lyme disease. Hepatitis is a condition wherein the liver is inflamed. The function of the liver is to screen toxins from the blood. When the liver is unable to handle the toxin load, you can develop liver diseases. Lyme disease causes the liver to slow its function, which can cause jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), severe itching and nausea.
Because there is more anecdotal than scientific evidence for liver involvement with Lyme disease, the treatments tend to be management of the symptoms rather than an actual cure. There is usually no treatment prescribed for hepatitis A, as the condition tends to resolve on its own. Treatment for hepatitis B and C is interferon, which is made from proteins that signal the cells to immunize when an infection threat is realized. Generally recognized treatments for Lyme disease are varied courses of antibiotics (including regular IV treatments) over the course of four to six weeks. Science is slowly coming to realize that this may not “cure” Lyme disease, and that it can be a life-long, chronic condition. Over-the-counter remedies include milk thistle, which is efficacious for detoxifying your liver.