DEAR DOCTOR. ROACH: Can Lyme Disease Put A Person Into Parkinson’s Disease? I tested positive for Lyme – I had the rash, a fever, and a terrible headache. After a month on doxycycline, my left arm started shaking and my neurologist diagnosed me with Parkinson’s. The doctor said it had nothing to do with Lyme disease. What is your opinion? – SM
ANSWER: I can absolutely understand why you suspect that the neurologist might be wrong. Chance seems too much to believe. However, I think your neurologist is probably right. The different types of neurological complications of Lyme disease are many.
The most common are any combination of meningitis symptoms (inflammation of the meninges with headache, fever, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light); Disorders of the cranial nerves (especially the facial nerve, which can make people with neurological borreliosis look like they have Bell’s palsy); and damage to peripheral nerves causing pain and weakness or numbness, often similar to sciatica (but can include other parts of the body).
A detailed neurological exam by a neurologist would look for signs of Parkinson’s disease – not just the tremors you described, but muscle stiffness and gait changes. These would be very unusual in Lyme disease. I found cases that resembled some aspects of Parkinson’s disease, but they improved with treatment.
It’s possible that the stress of Lyme disease hastened the onset of Parkinson’s disease you were meant to be. I say your neurologist is “probably right” because what I’ve found – the lack of data to show a correlation – doesn’t mean there isn’t a correlation, and it is possible that time can prove the Lyme -Borreliosis related to Parkinson’s. However, I think it is unlikely.
DEAR DOCTOR. ROACH: Since my mother fell ill, my father’s health has been going downhill. He has difficulty walking and getting up from a sitting position, and he has little feeling in his hands. It has gotten so bad that he has to pick up things with his fingers and then move them into position. His doctor claims it’s old age, but I’m afraid it could be a bone problem. A friend of mine found out many years ago that she could not lift her arm over her shoulders and was then operated on on her neck at the age of 80 to correct this. My father is 77 and was fine until recently. Is that really “age” or could something else be wrong? – JP
ANSWER: It is NOT “age”.
It’s a nervous system problem, but I can’t tell you exactly what without a fuller assessment. There are several likely options, including carpal tunnel syndrome, but many others as well. He should have a rating. A neurologist would be an excellent place to start.
DR. ROACH WRITES: A recent column on itchy ears generated many letters to the editor, most of them asking if this was due to allergies. One person found that it was the dye from the shampoo that appeared to be causing the symptom. Several people wrote that treatment with a medicated selenium shampoo solved their problem. As always, I welcome helpful suggestions from readers.