Doxycycline has been commonly prescribed by physicians across the world as a first-line defense in fighting Lyme disease for decades. This is mainly because there is strong evidence that patients who take a 4-6 week round of this antibiotic within the first 60 days of infection onset can remove all signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and avoid going into the chronic phase of the illness. In fact, doxycycline (along with amoxycillin, cefuroxime and azithromycin) has become a part of International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) treatment standards.
The problem is, a 2003 study reported by the US National Library of Medicine warns that doxycyline has been shown to cause intracranial hypertension or pressure on the brain. Actually, it has been known for years that doxycycline and its cousins tetracycline and minocycline can cause increased cranial pressure to the point of manifesting symptoms ranging from headaches, blurred or double vision, whooshing sounds in the ears, spinal fluid leaking from the nose to permanent blindness. Patients more susceptible to this condition were slightly overweight women in their childbearing years. In fact, the study issues this warning, “Doxycycline should be prescribed with caution to women of childbearing age who are overweight or have a history of idiopathic intracranial hypertension.”
However, another report also published by US National Library of Medicine states that “intracranial hypertension due to the tetracycline antibiotics (including doxycycline) occurs in both sexes, at almost any age, and without concomitant obesity. How quickly a person develops intracranial hypertension after ingesting doxycycline is unknown, but in the largest review of intracranial hypertension induced by minocycline, some participants had used the drug for up to a year before developing symptoms whereas others became symptomatic within two weeks.8 Some dispute whether tetracyclines cause intracranial hypertension at all since so many individuals are treated with the drug every year without developing intracranial hypertension. However, individual cases have been reported where stopping the drug resolved symptoms and signs of intracranial hypertension, and restarting the drug brought recurrence of intracranial hypertension. In 12 patients with minocycline induced intracranial hypertension 25% had notable visual field loss.8 Therefore, patients who complain of headache after using doxycycline should be examined carefully, including their visual acuity, and formal testing of the visual fields.”
We raise this issue with doxycyline not to create fear or concerns, but to question why this study in particular and the warnings for cycline drugs in general are not more well-known in the Lyme community.
It is also a concern that many antibiotic treatments that are widely prescribed and considered “first-lines of defense” have alarming and dangerous side effects. Doxycyline is not the only offender.
In a recent blog post, we reported that the FDA recently issued a warning on the antibiotics Fluoroquinolones (i.e. Levaquin, Cipro, Floxin, among others), saying that they can cause permanent nerve damage and neuropathy. This is on top of the warning the FDA issued on the same drugs back in 2008 about their potential to cause severe tendon damage, blinding retinal detachment and kidney failure. The FDA warns that these side effects can occur hours to weeks after exposure to fluoroquinolones and may potentially be permanent.
In March of 2013, the FDA also warned that Azithromycin (Z-pack), a commonly-prescribed antibiotic, may trigger a potentially deadly irregular heart rhythm for some patients. The FDA is warning the public that the pills can cause abnormal changes in the heart’s electrical activity that may lead to a fatal heart rhythm.
It’s time that Lyme patients need to ask themselves if it’s worth the risk of taking antibiotics with such debilitating and potentially dangerous side effects when there are several well-known and effective natural and herbal treatments that have been proven to be more successful than antibiotics in treating Lyme.
A 2015 study in particular shows that whole-leaf extract of stevia (commonly used as an herbal sweetener) has been proven to be more effective than several antibiotics in killing spirochetes, biofilms and cyst forms of Lyme.
The above material is provided for informational purposes only. The material is not nor should be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.