Lyme disease can mimic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and many other diseases and disorders. With so many shared symptoms, how do you know if yours stem from Lyme, lupus, or RA?
Desperate for a Diagnosis
My new physician’s assistant (PA), who had treated my husband for years, suggested we wait a couple weeks. If I got better on my own, great! If not, we would look further into the cause of my complaints.
I struggled through the next two days, and then my husband, Mark, called our PA. “I’ve never seen my wife like this.” He pointed out the high false negative rate of Lyme tests and the importance of early treatment.
He also mentioned the prevalence of Lyme in our small cul-de-sac. We didn’t know all our neighbors, but, between those we knew and our daughter, at least two had battled Lyme. Another had Lyme symptoms, including a rash on her scalp, but her test was negative. Still, she recovered on the standard Lyme treatment.
Our PA graciously conceded and prescribed three weeks of Doxycycline. “I don’t want to scare you,” he said, but he also gave me a referral to see a rheumatologist. If the antibiotics didn’t work, he instructed me to make an appointment to see a specialist.
Shared Symptoms: Lyme, Lupus, and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Late-stage Lyme disease can mimic both lupus and RA. Since both are also treated by rheumatologists, I assume my PA thought I might have one of those.
Like lupus, Lyme can cause fevers, headaches, hair loss, achy muscles, and extreme fatigue. Like RA, Lyme can cause arthritis, insomnia, heart problems, and cognitive issues.
In fact, these three chronic conditions share many symptoms:
Of course, their origin stories are quite different. Both lupus and RA are autoimmune diseases where the body attacks its own healthy tissues. But Lyme is an infectious disease caused by a carrier tick.
Blood tests and risk factors, plus your symptoms, can help doctors diagnose you with the right disease. But the tests aren’t always accurate. Since my Lyme symptoms most resembled lupus, I imagine my PA speculated I had that disease.
The same day he prescribed the Doxycycline pills, I started taking them. Soon afterward, my energy started to return. Unfortunately, some of my old symptoms flared and new ones appeared.