Psychiatrist's experience...

Discussion in 'Lyme Disease Archives' started by victoria, Jan 20, 2009.

  1. victoria

    victoria New Member

    When the doctor gets sick, the journey is double-edged (Part II)
    By Pamela Weintraub on January 16, 2009 in Emerging Diseases

    As psychiatrist Virginia Sherr recovered from the devastation of Lyme disease and its coinfections, she began to view her patients through a different lens -and "listen with a third, even a fourth, ear."

    Says Sherr: "I began to hear them describe the same symptoms that had bothered me: pains
    in their back, headache, enormous fatigue, night sweats, sinus problems that wouldn't quit."

    For a fleeting millisecond the impossible notion that she, herself, might be infecting her patients flashed through her mind. But her training as a psychiatrist quickly kicked in, causing her to question, instead, whether she had been swept up in a case of reverse transference: Had she, the doctor, imposed her experience and perspective on the patients, instead of
    the other way around? To rule this latter possibility out, Sherr waited quite a long time before broaching the subject of tickborne disease with patients. But ultimately, she did. "They had significant clinical signs and symptoms and they needed to be worked up. I realized it had nothing to do with me."

    Instead, Sherr found her personal ordeal had invested her with a special empathy for patients suffering tickborne disease, alerting her to the range of symptoms, especially the neuropsychiatric ones, that caused patients to seek her out at all.

    "Afflicted patients whom I see in my office often label themselves as stressed, neurotic, or hypochondriac," Sherr says. "They are slow to believe, even with positive tests, that Lyme disease could be the underlying cause of disparate symptoms stirred up by normal life events -long plane flights, stress, even joy."

    One patient, Sherr reports, arrived at her office in a terrified state. Fatigued, confused, and too disoriented to leave her immediate neighborhood, she suffered largely sleepless nights punctuated by "horrific dreams of small animals she needed to kill but somehow couldn't." She'd been to a dozen prior physicians across a range of specialities, and each had confirmed the diagnosis of panic disorder.

    In light of her personal experience, Sherr saw something more: The woman was so sensitive to light she required sunglasses, and her neck, stiff and sore, made cracking and popping noises. Her face drooped on one side, suggestive of Bell's palsy. Sherr sent her blood out for testing -and while the Western blot was negative, PCR came back positive for the Lyme disease spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi. A su(b)sequent SPECT scan of her brain was judged to be
    consistent with a diagnosis of Lyme disease as well. If there was any question about the diagnosis, proof was in the treatment. While psychoactive medication made the panic symptoms more tolerable, only antibiotics were curative.

    Another patient, also written off with panic disorder by a host of experts, was not merely panicked. She had migrating pains, severe fatigue, and weakness throughout her body. Her ribs were sore and her joints ached. She also suffered drenching sweats, requiring several changes of clothing during each 24-hour period. Sherr sent out blood work here, too, eliciting
    positives for Lyme, ehrlichiosis, and babesiosis. Nine months after beginning antibiotic treatment for these infections, Sherr reported, most of the patient's physical and psychiatric symptoms were gone.

    Virginia Sherr has published some of her most interesting and well-documented case studies in medical journals. Writing in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, she described panic attacks in three patients.

    Notable, according to Sherr, was that each patient "experienced symptoms that are not usual in panic disorder, but are typical of neurological Lyme disease, including exquisite sensitivity to light, touch and sounds, joint pain often in combination with cognitive changes including mental fogginess and loss of recent memory, and some degree of bizarre, shifting, and often
    excruciating neurological pain."

    (rest of article at above link)

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