RHOBH Yolanda Foster Blogs About Her Lyme Disease Battle

Real Housewives of Beverly Hills member Yolanda Foster is apologizing to her fans for not posting to her Bravo blog lately:

“I would like to apologize for my lousy participation in the blogging department at the moment. Although writing is usually my favorite thing to do, I unfortunately have lost the ability to do so in an intelligent matter at this time.”

The reason, she says, is due to her now 3 year long battle with Lyme Disease:

“I wasted the first year trying to get diagnosed and spent the next two trying to find a cure. I have gone from the conventional long-term antibiotics to about every holistic protocol there is to offer. Unfortunately, I was only able to get to about a 60% recovery until I relapsed in early December and have not been able to find my way back.”

Foster says that she has neuroborreliosis, a form of Lyme Disease where the brain itself has been infected with the spirochete that causes the disease. The illness has left her unable “to read, write, or even watch TV, because I can’t process information.”

She expressed her frustration with the lack of progress in diagnostic testing, a vaccine, or a cure for Lyme disease despite knowledge of the disease since the early 20th century. But she also realizes:

” I have an undeniable spirit that will continue to fight and travel the world until I have the proper answers. I keep reminding myself that I was given this task for a greater purpose, which keeps me driven and motivated to think outside the box to make a difference not only for myself but for all my fellow Lymies suffering some form of this debilitating disease that we know so little about. A lot of great medicines and ancient therapies are blocked by the FDA, so that’s why I choose to travel and recognize the value of diverse points of view in medicine.”

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an illness caused by the spiral shaped spirochete- Borrelia burgdorferi. It is spread through the bite of infected ticks. The black-legged tick (or deer tick, Ixodes scapularis) spreads the disease in the northeastern, mid-Atlantick_sizestic, and north-central United States, and the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) spreads the disease on the Pacific Coast.

Ticks can attach to any part of the human body but are often found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits, and scalp. In most cases, the tick must be attached for 36-48 hours or more before the Lyme disease bacterium can be transmitted.

Symptoms

Erythema muliformeTypically, the first symptom of Lyme disease is a rash known as erythema migrans, which starts as a small red spot at the site of the tick bite and gets larger over a period of days or weeks, forming a circular or oval-shaped red rash. The rash may look like a bull’s eye, appearing as a red ring around a clear area with a red center. It appears within a few weeks of a tick bite and usually occurs at the place of the bite. The rash can range in size from that of a small coin to the width of a person’s back. As infection spreads, rashes can appear at different sites on the body. The rash is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches and fatigue. Although these symptoms may be like those of common viral infections, such as the flu, Lyme disease symptoms tend to last longer or may come and go over time.

Some people who have Lyme disease may develop arthritis or nervous system problems and more rarely, heart problems. Lyme disease may also cause eye inflammation, hepatitis (liver disease), and severe fatigue. However, these problems usually only appear in conjunction with other symptoms of the disease.

For a comprehensive review of Lyme disease, see our story about Debbie Gibson. In this article, we will concentrate on neuroborreliosis.

What is Neuroborreliosis?

Lyme Neuroborreliosis (LNB) is the neurological manifestation of systemic infection with Lyme disease. The nervous system is involved in 10% to 15% of cases of Lyme disease. It most commonly occurs during the second stage of Lyme infection. LNB is often compared to the neurolgical illness caused by another spirochete- namely syphilis.

LNB is often divided into two stages: early (less thanb 6 months from onset) and late (more than 6 months). Early effects of CNS infection include headaches, radiculitis (pain/numbness/tingling along a sensory nerve’s path), meningitis and facial paralysis (Bell’s Palsy).

In later stages, LNB can mimic virtually any type of psychiatric disorder or any disorder of the brain. According to Lyme Disease Action, this includes:

  • Cognitive problems- memory loss, slowed thinking, difficulty with words and numbers, concentration, disorientation
  • Fatigue- often profound and dibilitating
  • Headaches
  • Neuropathic pain- tingling, prickling, crawling or shooting pain
  • Dizziness, hearing loss, tinnitis (ringing in the ears)
  • Visual disturbances and sensitivity to light
  • Seizures
  • Tremor, muscular weakness and difficulty walking
  • Mood disturbances including anxiety or panic attacks, depression, suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty sleeping, nightmares

These difficulties can greatly interfere with aspects of life, including work, education, recreation and even interpersonal relationships.

The disease may have a relapsing course. Periods of illness may be interspersed with periods of normal or relatively normal health.

Treatment of LNB consists of antibiotics that are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and include:  intravenous ceftriaxone (2 or 4 g daily), intravenous penicillin (20 million units daily), intravenous cefotaxime (3 × 2 g or 2 × 3 g daily) and oral doxycycline (200 mg daily). They are given for 10-28 days.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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