What's Causing Your Fatigue: Pt. 1 - Hidden Infections

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia are two of the most complex medical conditions that a patient can live with or that a doctor can face. Fatigue is a vague complaint to a physician because so many illnesses can present this symptom. Chronic generalized pain is also a diagnostic dilemma that sets patients off running to neurologists or pain management specialists.

chronic fatigue

The key to caring for these patients has to start with hard, medical detective work. A doctor’s number one priority should be assuring that a harmful infection isn’t the underlying cause of these symptoms.

Tick-borne diseases are the new scourge of modern society. These tiny bugs, the size of a pencil eraser, carry different bacteria that can cause a range of symptoms: rashes, anemia, liver dysfunction, heart abnormalities and arthritic or muscle pain.

These ticks must think they are the upper-crust of society, since they populate the Hamptons on Long Island, Cape Cod and Nantucket in Massachusetts, Connecticut and even rural upstate New York. They’re plentiful in many locations, but are particularly prevalent here on the east coast. The ticks find a ride on deer, white mice and some other varmints, and then somehow hop onto humans. With a barely noticeable bite, they start to infect the dangerous bacteria that can cause Lyme disease and other key infectious illnesses.

I recently spoke to a nurse at the department of health in Suffolk county. She was extremely knowledgeable on the different tick borne illnesses, and told me that Long Island (particularly Suffolk county) is a haven for these ticks.

Lyme disease has made all the headlines the past decade, but there are other tick borne illnesses with strange names: Ehrlichiosis, Babesiosis and Anaplasmosis . All these infections can cause fatigue!

The problem with these infections is that they can range from being very severe with high fevers(similar to Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever- thank goodness we don’t see too much of this one) or low-grade fevers that someone might dismiss as common cold.

The summer time is clearly the time of the year to be on the alert for these infections. If you have fatigue or chronic pain, it’s important to remind your physician that you may have vacationed or visited these areas.

The treatment for a tick borne infection is relatively straight-forward. The tetracycline family of antibiotics are considered effective and usually given for 2 weeks or up to a month.

The more complicated cases occur when the infection progresses to a further stage. Antibiotics may still be effective according to some experts, however my experience is that it is the chronic inflammation at this point that is triggering pain and fatigue. At Mitchell Medical Group, we use Gammaglobulin, an immune booster to help the body fight off the inflammation.

The next post in this series I will discuss viruses that can cause chronic fatigue.

- Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC

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