How Lyme Disease is Affected by Your Menstrual Cycle
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne illnesses in the U.S. and Europe. Caused by certain species of bacteria, including Borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease leads to various short-term and long-term symptoms.
Despite being a common bacterial infection, Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose. That is because many Lyme disease symptoms overlap with those of other illnesses, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis.
Managing the symptoms of Lyme disease can be particularly difficult for women. Fluctuating hormone levels throughout the menstrual cycle can lead to sudden flare-ups. Symptoms such as depression, anxiety, insomnia and body ache can worsen when a female patient is menstruating.
It is important to keep an eye on various symptoms and seek treatment early on. This article will take a closer look at Lyme disease symptoms and understand their correlation with the female menstrual cycle.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by infected black-legged ticks. The most common causes of Lyme in the U.S. are Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii. In Europe, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are the leading cause of the disease.
How Is Lyme Disease Transmitted?
Lyme disease is transmitted from the bite of infected black-legged ticks (also known as deer ticks). These ticks pick up the bacterium while feeding on infected deers, birds, or mice. They are more likely to attach to the scalp and armpits.
In most cases, Lyme disease transmission happens only when an infected tick is attached to the body for longer than 36 hours. HOWEVER, some studies showed that it could happen in only 6 hours. Most patients contract Lyme disease from the bite of immature infected ticks that are difficult to spot.
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Lyme Disease Progression
The progression of Lyme disease happens in the following stages:
- Early localized disease - characterized by a red rash that resembles a bull’s eye within the first 1 to 2 weeks of the tick bite.
- Early disseminated disease - This stage begins a few weeks or months after the tick bite and is marked by signs of systemic infection.
- Late disseminated disease - The third stage of Lyme disease can occur months or years after the infected tick bite due to lack of proper treatment in the initial stages.
It is important to understand that the disease does not unfold in the same way for every patient. Many patients do not develop the characteristic red skin rash during the early stages of the infection. Also, even after undergoing initial treatment, nearly 36% of patients continue to remain symptomatic.
What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?
According to user-reported data from StuffThatWorks, the most reported Lyme disease symptoms include:
- Arthralgia (joint pain)
- Brain fog
- Muscle pain
- Skin rash
There are many more symptoms varying from flu-like symptoms such as fevers and headaches to symptoms like air hunger and balance issues.
It is, however, worth mentioning here that the symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on the stage of infection. Patients in the early localized disease stage experience skin rashes (formally known as erythema migrans) along with fever, chills, fatigue, body ache and swollen lymph nodes.
As the disease progresses, patients will develop other symptoms, such as joint pain, heart palpitations, memory loss, blurred vision and tinnitus. Some patients also experience air hunger in the advanced stages of Lyme disease.
Moreover, the symptoms of Lyme disease are not consistent. Patients might go through months before they experience a worsening of symptoms. Typically, Lyme disease symptoms aggravate during periods of prolonged stress or traumatic life events. Women, in particular, report more severe symptoms when they are menstruating.
Lyme Disease and Menstrual Cycle: Understanding the Link
A woman’s body goes through constant hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle. Typically, estrogen and progesterone levels are at their peak before ovulation. However, the level of these hormones starts declining post-ovulation and is at its lowest at the end of the menstrual cycle.
Lyme disease symptoms are known to vary with hormonal fluctuations. Lower levels of estrogen and progesterone at the end of the menstrual cycle worsen these symptoms. That is the reason most women experience debilitating symptoms of Lyme disease before, during and after menstruation.
It is also essential to understand that hormonal changes in the body lead to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The condition is characterized by mood swings, anxiety and depression, among other symptoms. The emotional stress of PMS can intensify certain symptoms of Lyme disease, including depression and brain fog.
Many women also have to deal with sleep disturbances near the end of the menstrual cycle. This, in turn, aggravates emotional and mental health issues, ultimately leading to further deterioration of Lyme disease symptoms.
Also, women with Lyme disease tend to have lower levels of progesterone and estrogen. It can lead to the onset of menopause-like symptoms, causing further hormonal imbalance. This, in turn, could affect their mental wellbeing and result in a flare-up of Lyme disease symptoms.
How to Deal with Lyme Disease Flare-ups During Menstruation?
Chronic symptoms of Lyme disease tend to worsen as a result of stress and mental health issues. So, the key to preventing these symptoms from escalating is to pay attention to a patient’s mental wellbeing.
A healthy diet and regular exercise help promote serotonin productions, thus alleviating feelings of stress and depression. Also, it is important to adopt healthy sleep habits and get at least 7 to 8 hours of shut-eye every night. If a patient has debilitating PMS symptoms, they should consider seeking medical help as well.
Getting diagnosed with Lyme disease is not a death sentence. It is important to understand how the infection progresses and seek treatment at the right time. When it comes to managing Lyme disease symptoms, women have a more challenging time than men.
That is because the symptoms intensify due to hormonal fluctuations at the end of a woman’s menstrual cycle. The onset of PMS further causes mood swings and sleep disturbances, aggravating these symptoms even more.
However, patients can take charge of their mental health by making healthy lifestyle choices. Regular exercise, proper sleep and a balanced diet can help minimize the intensity of symptoms throughout the menstrual cycle.
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NOTE: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Nannocare. Nannocare is not affiliated, associated, authorized, endorsed by, or in any way officially connected with the author of this article, or any of its subsidiaries or its affiliates.