Every once in a while, a celebrity opens up about their struggle with a certain condition. As much as hearing about it saddens the public, such stories do good by demystifying illnesses and raising awareness about diseases that people should know about.
‘Does Avril Lavigne have Lyme disease?’ was Googled many times since the singer announced her diagnosis in 2015. Many people were shocked by the announcement, and Lavigne states that battling the condition has caused some of the worst years in her life.
But why is this the case?
Before we get into the details of Lavigne’s story, we need to explain what Lyme disease actually does to your body.
What Is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and transmitted through the bites of the blacklegged tick. It’s the single most common tick-borne disease in the US and Europe, with around 300,000 Americans being diagnosed each year.
If left untreated, the infection can cause many severe complications, which will be discussed in detail later. Before we get into that, let’s see how Lavigne noticed she had it in the first place.
Lyme Disease Symptoms
The first thing that Lavigne realized was that she was extremely fatigued. She states she couldn’t get out of bed. This is one of the most common symptoms that is usually felt within the first 30 days of infection. Others include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
Fatigue occurs in 70-80% of the infected. Another widespread symptom is the Erythema migrans, a type of rash that begins at the site where the person was bitten, and then starts spreading with the ability to reach up to 12 inches in no more than a few days.
If she had been diagnosed earlier, Lavigne’s struggle might not have been as hard as it was. Unfortunately, testing for Lyme disease isn’t a particularly straightforward process.
First of all, the aim of the tests is to identify the antibodies that form in the blood, which might take weeks after exposure to the infection. Consequently, it can take weeks to get a diagnosis, and the bacteria might already spread by then. Until the antibodies have formed, the tests will come back negative, allowing the bacteria to multiply before the disease is diagnosed.
Being left undiagnosed for quite some time, Lavigne finally received a diagnosis in 2015, after feeling the first symptoms during her tour in 2014. What did she have to go through after she was diagnosed?
Lyme Disease Treatment
After getting the diagnosis, Lavigne was put on antibiotics and antimalarials, which are the most common treatment options for this condition. However, due to the late diagnosis, her recovery wasn’t easy.
In her own words: “It’s a smart bug: It morphs into a cystic form, so you have to take other antibiotics at the same time”. Killing the bacteria isn’t easy, and can sometimes be impossible. On the upside, appropriate treatment can stop the disease from progressing further, even if it doesn’t cure it.
What happens is that some of the symptoms, such as joint and muscle pain or cognitive dysfunction, keep lingering after treatment, and it might take a long time before they feel better. This is referred to as the post-treatment Lyme syndrome, and affects around 10% of all sufferers.
But even if it doesn’t erase all the symptoms, treatment can ensure that Lyme doesn’t cause other serious health issues.
Lyme Disease Complications
If Lyme is left untreated, it keeps progressing into Early, and then Late Disseminated Lyme. The symptoms get much worse, and they can include vision changes, chest pain, facial paralysis, and Lyme carditis.
Without an effective treatment method, the disease keeps damaging certain organs, causing further severe health issues such as eye inflammation, meningitis, or hepatitis.
Fortunately, this hasn’t happened to Lavigne. Even though it would have been much better if she had received the diagnosis earlier, there have been no serious complications.
This doesn’t mean that the battle against Lyme has been easy. Lavigne spent two years in her home, and says that she felt as if she were dying. At one point she even accepted death, but fortunately, things started looking up.
Lavigne still isn’t cured of the disease, but she does feel better. The main issue is that there’s no strict protocol towards battling it, so some trial and error is necessary. A patient might have to go through several round of different antibiotics before the bug has been killed.
This is exactly the path that Lavigne is currently on. She has fewer symptoms to deal with, but her battle is far from over.
She states that the silver lining to all that has happened is that she was inspired to write new songs, “Head Above Water” being the first song on the album she released while recovering.
There is another important way that Lavigne turned her struggle into something good.
After realizing how serious Lyme is, and how complex the diagnosis and recovery can be, Lavigne decided to help out those that are struggling through the Avril Lavigne Foundation.
Her mission is to shine the light on the disease, and make sure that everyone suffering from it can find all the help they need. The foundation is raising money to help those that can’t afford treatment, offering resources on how to battle the disease, and it also helps in a variety of other ways.
The foundation aims to help accelerate research on the disease through raising funds and partnering up with scientists. Lavigne is passionate about making sure that her condition affects as few people as possible, and is taking steps towards making that happen.
So does Avril Lavigne have Lyme disease? Yes, and she learned how to make the best out of her situation. As you can see, Lyme is a serious disease that should never be taken lightly. Even though most people get cured without too many issues, complications happen more often than they should.
If you wish to learn more about the disease, Lavigne’s foundation is a great place to start. You’ll have a deeper understanding of how the disease works, and you can help raise awareness even further.