Our Lyme Disease Story

Lupus? Or Yet Another Lyme Disease Symptom?

Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed as lupus. After all, they share many symptoms. But could Lyme disease cause a kind of lupus? In other words, could drug-induced lupus be a Lyme disease symptom?

As I mentioned in a previous post, this past October, someone called from my new doctor’s office. I had tested positive for antihistone antibodies, a marker for drug-induced lupus. She told me to stop taking rifampin and clarithromycin

I went off the meds right away. Two weeks later, I was retested. Surprisingly, my antihistone antibodies spiked from “moderate positive” to “strong positive!” 

Antihistone Antibodies Levels

This lupus-like disease ends after you stop taking the medication. So, apparently, the rifampin and clarithromycin were not the culprits.

What Was Causing My Drug-Induced Lupus?

In December and January, I was on azithromycin for pneumonia and a sinus infection. From February until May, I was on penicillin for chronic sinusitis

In February, I also started avoiding products with Tylenol. In March, I stopped using NSAIDs like Ibuprofen. Not that I popped these pills every day! But when I had cramps, a cold, or a low-grade fever, I sometimes turned to Aleve, DayQuil, or NyQuil.

My antihistone antibodies decreased, but never went negative. Instead, they plateaued into the moderate positive range.

You might be wondering if the penicillin could’ve kept my antihistone antibodies positive. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, “Drug-induced lupus typically comes after many months or years of continuous therapy with the causative drug.”

As far as I know, I never took penicillin before this year. Of course, it’s a common drug, so I probably took it at some point in my life. Until this year, though, I never took it long-term.

Lupus? Or Yet Another Lyme Disease Symptom?
Image by Erik Karits from Pixabay

Bug-Induced Lupus: Another Lyme Disease Symptom?

Finally, in May, Dr. Brinkley concluded I had “bug-induced lupus.” 

What did that mean? First, I had some lupus symptoms, but I didn’t have systemic lupus.

Second, I tested positive for antihistone antibodies, but we’d ruled out all my medications. In fact, the azithromycin and penicillin—both Lyme-fighting antibiotics—seemed to help my levels soften.

So, what was causing me to have the signs and symptoms of drug-induced lupus? Dr. Brinkley said not enough research has been done, but she thinks it’s Lyme disease. After all, many of her Lyme patients test positive for antihistone antibodies.

The Symptoms of Lyme Disease Compared to Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis

The next week, I finished my penicillin prescription. A few weeks after that, I was retested, and my antihistone antibodies had risen. Was the slight increase just a normal variation? Or did they rise because I’m no longer taking a Lyme-fighting antibiotic? 

My antihistone antibodies haven’t been tested since, but I wonder where they’re at now. Currently, though, Dr. Brinkley is focused on testing me for several other diseases. After all, Lyme isn’t the only disease you can get from a tick. Want to know what some of the other diseases are? Read “Co-infections: Lyme’s Common Partners in Crime!”

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