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Lyme Disease Pained Bella Hadid—Here are the Key Symptoms

Learn what model Bella Hadid goes through with Lyme disease and what experts want you to know about the condition as cases are rising. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Bella Hadid has supermodel status and enjoys the glam life of bucket list travel destinations, runway shows and high fashion, but there is a part of her life that isn't so glitzy. The 26-year-old has Lyme disease, which is a "multisystemic illness that can affect the central nervous system (CNS), causing neurologic and psychiatric symptoms," the National Library of Medicine states. Hadid was diagnosed back in 2012 along with her younger brother and famous mother, Yolanda, who also made a name for herself modeling and is best known for appearing on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills from 2012-2016.  

Hadid has been open about her health struggles and told Wall Street Journal, "I would have really depressive episodes and my mom or my doctor would ask how I was and instead of having to respond in text, I would just send them a photo. It was the easiest thing for me to do at the time because I was never able to explain how I was feeling. I would just be in excruciating and debilitating mental and physical pain, and I didn't know why. That was over the past three years," she explained. 

Lyme disease can be debilitating and one doctor is pleading with the public to take precautions as cases increase. CBS News reports that cases have "spiked 320 percent." Mohammed Albouidani, MD, FACP Internal Medicine with Beverly Hospital and his own private practice tells us, "I would like to send message to the community, especially the people who spend a lot of time outdoors for variety of reasons to be careful about tick bite if they see it take out immediately get tested even if negative you may need to repeat the test as it may stay negative for few weeks after exposure if you been diagnosed with Lyme disease please get treated with antibiotics to prevent complications and late symptoms which could change your life."Read on to learn what experts are saying about Lyme disease and signs that indicate you have it. As always, please consult with your physician for medical advice. 


What to Know About Lyme Disease


Dr. Wally Wazni, a Neurologist and Medical Director of the Stroke Center at Dignity Health St. Mary Hospital in Long Beach Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by the bacteria Borrelia Burgdorferi.  It is actually the most common tick related illness in the United States.  white-footed mice and white-tailed deer most commonly carry the bacteria that are transmitted to humans from " black-legged or deer ticks" to humans." 

Dr. Albouidani explains, "Lyme disease is the most common vector -borne disease in the United States which is  caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and rarely borrelia mayonii, transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks.  which cause febrile illness if left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Ticks are most concerning pests in California, especially the north coast area and Sierra Nevada range."

 Dr. Michael Hirt, a Board Certified Nutrition from Harvard University and Board Certified in Internal Medicine and is with The Center for Integrative Medicine in Tarzana California tells us, "Symptoms can be fairly generic.  Common Lyme symptoms such as fatigue, joint pains, joint swelling, unexplained nerve symptoms (phantom pains or tingling) and brain fog may be chalked up to being run down, overworked, or a flare up of an old injury.  Many patients and health care providers expect to see the classic 'Bull's eye' rash, but only a small percentage of acute Lyme patients actually have a rash.  If the patient doesn't remember being bit by a tick or doesn't even see the tick (which can be the size of 'period' at the end of a sentence), then the practitioner may not consider the Lyme diagnosis.  Sometimes, basic blood testing is fairly normal, further obscuring a serious diagnosis like Lyme disease.  Additionally, if Lyme disease is not suspected and not tested, the disease can be missed and untreated for many months or years." 


Why Cases of Lyme Disease are Increasing Drastically


Dr. Hirt says, "As more healthcare practitioners are aware of the often subtle signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and then test for the condition, more patients are being diagnosed.  While once considered only a disease of the heavily wooded East Coast, Lyme disease is now known to be found in many more states, leading to more testing for the disease, and thus the discovery of more cases."

Dr. Wazni says, "It is difficult to say however any number of this can explain the rise. Expansion of suburban neighborhoods into wooded areas may lead to more contact with infected ticks. Also a rise in the reservoir carriers i.e white footed mice or white tailed deer can also lead to increased infections." Dr. Albouidani shares, "There has been a spike over 320% over the past few years in the US, multiple causes could contribute to that spike including the changes in the land use patterns like reforestation in the northeastern United States. Suburban development in these areas has brought people, deer, rodents, ticks, and the germs ticks carry into close contact with each other." 


Risk Factors

woman jogging

According to Dr. Wazni, "The main people who are at risk are those living in neighborhoods with near woods in the northeast of the United States, first reported in Connecticut. However there is a rise in northwestern California." Dr. Albouidani says, "People of any age can get Lyme disease, but it's most common in children 5 to 9 years old and adults between 55 to 69 years old people who spend time outdoors in activities such as camping, hiking, golfing, or working, playing in grassy wooded environments are at high risk." 

Dr. Hirt states, "If you have been in the great outdoors or even in your own backyard during tick season in Lyme infested areas, you are at risk for the disease.  Of course, you must have been bitten by an infected tick, but the ticks can be so small as to be missed by the patient who is thus unaware of the potential exposure."


Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Winterizing dry itchy skin on the elbow area

Dr. Hirt emphasizes, "Remember that Lyme disease is the great 'imitator'. Lyme disease can present like so many benign conditions with symptoms of malaise, brain fog, weird nerve sensations, and some achy joints.  Health care providers might think the patient is just depressed, sore from a hard workout, stressed out, or suffering from a self-limited, flu-like illness.  Of course, Lyme can sometimes be easy to diagnose: the patient who brings the doctor the tick in a Ziplock bag and has the telltale 'Bull's eye' rash at the bite site, but many are not this lucky."

Dr. Wazni says to watch out for a, "tick bite on the skin which typically reddens in a "target shape" called erythema migrans. Initial symptoms of Lyme disease are distinctive around the tick bite on the skin which typically reddens. This skin rash along with fever, chills, headaches, joint pain and fatigue are classic symptoms."

According to Dr. Albouidani, "Early symptoms between 3-30 days after tick bite include: fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes with and without rash ; erythema migrans, which occur in 70-80% of the cases.  Late signs and symptoms (days to months) after tick exposure and untreated include cardiac palpitations, irregular heartbeat, neurological complications like facial palsy, nerve and shooting pain, episodes of dizziness and neuropathy. Joint disease is another sign which includes arthritis with swelling of the joints especially large joints like knees. Other personality affects like psych reactions, dementia and bipolar disorder can happen."


How Lyme Disease Can Affect Daily Life

woman showing her itchy back with allergy rash urticaria symptoms

Dr. Hirt says, "Most Lyme patients fortunate enough to be diagnosed and treated promptly after a bite can expect a full recovery and a short illness.   Unfortunately, like any chronic untreated, smoldering infectious disease, Lyme can devastate patients' health and wellbeing.  Without a diagnosis, patients can feel as if they're going slowly insane because they feel terrible, but generic medical testing can be normal or non-specific.  Untreated Lyme patients often describe their condition as 'The Flu' meets 'Groundhog Day' —the movie:  a persistent struggle to get through the day, only to wake up the next day, no better, no stronger and no more hopeful."

Dr. Wazni states, "Lyme disease if treated properly will not typically affect someone's daily life, it is treated with oral antibiotics typically doxycycline. If left untreated however it can lead to heart problems like abnormal heart rhythms as well as permanent neurological symptoms such nerve damage that would cause weakness and numbness of the arms and legs." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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