Avril Lavigne opens up in tearful interview on Lyme disease fight
Published Tuesday, June 30, 2015 9:11AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 30, 2015 9:13AM EDT
Avril Lavigne says the first weeks she spent with Lyme disease when she was unable to convince doctors there was something really wrong with her were "literally the worst time" of her life.
The Canadian-born pop singer was diagnosed with Lyme disease a year and a half ago. She is now recovered but in an interview with American TV show "Good Morning America," Lavigne said she spent weeks with disabling symptoms she could not explain.
The early symptoms of Lyme disease are non-specific, meaning they're similar to those of many other ailments: headache, joint pain, fatigue, tingling in the legs and fever.
Lavigne says for the first month, she would wake up with night sweats and felt so exhausted, she couldn't get out of bed.
"I literally became bedridden last October and I was in Los Angeles and it was like, literally the worst time of my life," she told the show, unable to hold back tears.
"I saw my doctor right away, got blood tests, got swabbed, and they didn't really know what was wrong with me."
The 30-year-old said she saw several doctors, all of whom misdiagnosed her.
"They would pull out their little computer and say, 'Uh, chronic fatigue syndrome,' or 'Why don't you just play some piano, Avril?' or, like, 'Are you depressed?' This is what they do to a lot of people that have Lyme disease. They don't know what to tell you so they tell you you're crazy," she said.
It wasn’t until two months into the symptoms that she did some online research and began to suspect Lyme disease. Eventually she was able to see a Lyme disease specialist, who diagnosed her.
The Napanee, Ont.-raised singer speculates she got the infection from a tick bite when she was visiting her home in Ontario.
Her treatment included several rounds of antibiotics and close to five months of bed rest with the help of her mom and husband, Nickelback frontman Chad Kroeger. Lavigne estimates she's only halfway through her recovery, but credits her fans with keeping her spirits up and vows she'll get back to 100 per cent.
Black-legged ticks are the only type of tick that can transmit Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. Once found only in Ontario, black-legged ticks are now in almost all provinces, thanks to climate change. As they continue to spread, medical professionals say more Canadians could contract the disease.
Many who are bitten by a Lyme-carrying tick don't realize they have been infected immediately. The tick bite causes a distinctive bullseye rash, though that rash can often be missed.
The blood tests used in Canada are notoriously unreliable and often come back negative even in those who are infected.
If Lyme disease is caught early, patients can be prescribed antibiotics and recover fully. But it can sometimes take years to diagnose, by which point, the disease may have caused permanent neurological or cardiac damage.
Since diagnosing and treating the disease is often difficult, experts recommend taking precautions to avoid tick bites if you plan on spending time in forested areas or areas with long grasses. Tips include:
- Wear long pants when in grassy areas, and tuck pants into socks
- Wear light-coloured clothing so ticks can be easily spotted
- Use bug repellent containing DEET
- Have someone inspect for any attached ticks
- If you do find a tick on your skin, remove it as quickly as possible with a pair of tweezers
With a report from CTV Toronto's Pauline Chan