Chronic Lyme cases take time
Physician urges more treatment for patients with stubborn symptoms
By CATHLEEN F. CROWLEY, Staff writer
First published in print: Thursday, June 3, 2010
Jim Grady felt like he had a bad cold that never went away: a stiff neck, joint pain and head ache that progressed to blurry vision, fatigue and an inability to concentrate. His doctors told him nothing was wrong.
Then the North Bethlehem resident went to Dr. Daniel Cameron, a Westchester County physician known for treating Lyme disease. Cameron diagnosed him with Lyme, a tick-born infection that has become epidemic in upstate New York.
"He asked me so many questions," Grady said of Cameron. "He was covering all his bases and trying to really uncover what was going on."
After six months of antibiotics, Grady, a tree nursery specialist turned insurance agent, finally felt better. He credits Cameron with ending his two-year battle with Lyme.
Cameron believes that some people get a long-term version of Lyme disease that does not respond to the standard treatment, which is a 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics. Many of Cameron’s patients, like Grady, take antibiotics for months.
"Eighty-five percent of the time if you can treat right at the time of the rash, you usually have a good outcome," Cameron said. "But that still leaves a sizable number of at least 15 percent who are still sick."
Cameron will be speaking in Albany today at an event sponsored by the Capital District and the Adirondack Lyme Disease Foundation, chapters of the Empire State Lyme Disease Association.
Doctors are the target audience for Cameron’s presentation titled "The Professional Challenges and Obstacles in the Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease." The event will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. today at the Hilton Garden Inn across from Albany Medical Center. The event is free.
Lyme is a bacterial infection caused by a bite from an infected tick. If left untreated, it can spread to the heart, joints and nervous system. Nearly 9,000 cases of Lyme disease were reported in New York in 2009, according to the state Health Department.
The Infectious Disease Society of America recommends treating suspected Lyme cases with a short course of antibiotics and, if the symptoms persist, for another four weeks of antibiotics.
From the IDSA guidelines: "Randomized controlled studies of treatment of patients who remain unwell after standard courses of antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease are in progress. To date, there are no convincing published data that repeated or prolonged courses of either oral or IV antimicrobial therapy are affective for such patients. The consensus of the IDSA expert-panel members is that there is insufficient evidence to regard ‘chronic Lyme disease’ as a separate diagnostic entity."
The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, an alternative group for which Cameron is a past president, recommends longer courses of antibiotics that end when the patient feels better.
Ideally, treatment would stop when the Lyme bacteria have disappeared from the blood stream, but there is no reliable test for measuring the bacteria levels, Cameron said.
Albany doctors tend to follow the IDSA guidelines, Cameron said, so many patients with chronic Lyme find their way to his Westchester office.
Today, he hopes to convince more Capital Region doctors to try treating Lyme his way.
"If 15 percent (of Lyme patients) are still sick, why not treat them a little longer," Cameron said.
Cathleen F. Crowley can be reached at 454-5348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
When: 6 to 9 p.m. today
Where: Hilton Garden Inn, 62 New Scotland Ave., across from Albany Medical Center, Albany
What: Dr. Daniel Cameron, a Lyme disease expert, will talk about treating chronic Lyme disease.
Also: A free screening of "Under Our Skin," a documentary on chronic Lyme disease, will be held at 6 p.m. June 10 at the Bethlehem Public Library.