In a recent post, I mentioned how surprised I was by an episode of atrial fibrillation while jogging on July 4. With treatment (a calcium channel blocker and a beta blocker), my situation improved fairly quickly, but I was left wondering about the cause. After all, I had jogged for 50 years without a problem. Why on this one day did I have a-fib?
I saw a very conscientious internist in Virginia shortly after my attack, and he mentioned that since I looked like a guy who spent time outdoors he was going to test me for Lyme disease, which can lead to palpitations, a-fib, and other heart problems. Lo and behold, he called me after I had returned to New York to say that indeed, I had the disease. So in addition to the heart drugs, I’m now taking a big dose of doxycycline twice a day — and so far, so good. I’ve had no recurrence and have resumed exercising, though I’m going to focus on walking for a while.
The diagnosis set me off on a round of internet research on Lyme disease. There’s a lot out there, and the good internet links are too numerous to cite here. But I’ve learned that Lyme disease can cause all sorts of difficulties, including arthritis, often affecting the knee; a variety of heart problems; pains in the joints, tendons, muscles, and knees; and meningitis. Foggy thinking, depression, and facial palsy can also occur. In the elderly, late stage Lyme disease can be mistaken for Alzheimers, as happened to Kris Kristofferson.
I can’t say that I’ll ever know for sure whether it was Lyme disease that caused my a-fib. Perhaps I just have an aging, irritable heart. But I’m going to pursue a Lyme cure rigorously with the help of my primary care physician.
Meanwhile, if you live in the northeast, upper midwest, or Colorado, and are experiencing symptoms that are difficult to explain, consider the possibility of Lyme disease. I don’t recall a tick bite, and I did not experience the target-shaped rash that can mark the onset of the disease, but that’s quite typical. I did experience a few days of achy muscles and joints, along with fatigue and a headache in early May. Perhaps that’s when I was coming down with Lyme; but I mistakenly ignored the symptoms, and they went away.
Lyme is not something to ignore. If you suspect it, insist on being tested.