What’s in a name?

What’s in a name?

Lyme disease is a complicated, multi-staged illness that is poorly understood and often exists with other poorly understood tick-borne illnesses. Uncertainties about these infections cause plenty of confusion and variations in how different groups use disease terms adds to it. Let’s take a minute to make sure we’re on the same page, so to speak.

“Lyme disease”, as frequently used by the media and many physicians, refers to an acute or untreated infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia  burgdorferi.

Many patients, treating physicians and Lyme disease advocates use the term differently.  To them, “Lyme disease” is also a shorthand term for the complex and variable illnesses experienced by patients with persistent or multiple tick-borne infections.

On this website, “Lyme disease” refers to illnesses due to an infection by any one of several infectious species of Borrelia. Issues relevant to a specific stage of Lyme disease will be noted accordingly.

“Chronic Lyme” is an especially confusing and controversial term. Some use it to describe any infection that has gone on for several months. Others us it to describe patients who were treated for Lyme disease but remain ill. A third group uses this term in a derogatory manner, implying that it is a fictitious disease.

To sidestep these issues, we avoid the use of the term all-together. Instead, we use the term “persistent Lyme disease” to describe patients who remain ill despite previous treatment for Lyme disease.