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Confusing Parkinson’s and Lyme

Dear Dr. Roach: Would you please explain the difference between Parkinson’s disease and Lyme disease?

My husband has been told by a neurologist that he has Parkinson’s. A regular medical doctor who also works in the field of alternative medications or supplements has told him that he has Lyme disease. This doctor uses the Meridian Stress Assessment test, and he has been treating my husband with many supplements for his condition.

We have been told that there isn’t a test to determine Parkinson’s. All supplements and testing for Lyme disease are out-of-pocket costs. We would appreciate your opinion or thoughts on his condition. — P.L.

Answer: Lyme disease and Parkinson’s are very different conditions. Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria spread by the deer tick. Often, the tick bite is not noticed at the time. In most cases, a characteristic target-shaped skin rash appears within a month of the tick bite. Some people may have fever, fatigue, headache or just not feel right. Without treatment, Lyme can progress to a second stage, where it can affect the heart, joints and other organs. During this time, Lyme disease can affect the nervous system, but the common symptoms of nerve palsies of the face and head, meningitis and peripheral neuropathy are very unlike the usual symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. However, there have been a very few reported cases of advanced Lyme disease with symptoms that looked like Parkinson’s.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurologic condition that causes tremors, slowed movements, stiffness and balance problems. Much later in the course of Parkinson’s disease, some people may not think clearly and can have hallucinations. Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed by a neurologist based on the symptoms and a detailed physical exam.

Meridian stress assessments have not been proven to be effective as a diagnostic test. I would highly suspect the efficacy of the supplements chosen by this method. I am not against alternative treatments if they don’t interfere with effective treatment, but if it is Lyme disease, it shouldn’t be treated with supplements. Further, if he really has Parkinson’s, he is not getting treatments that may help him.