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Lyme Disease Benches FSU Football Quarterback

Experts Discuss Lyme Disease Symptoms
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WebMD Health News

July 11, 2005 -- Florida State University (FSU) quarterback Wyatt Sexton will miss the upcoming college football season due to Lyme disease.

Sexton was reportedly found disheveled and disoriented on a city street last month.

"We expect him to fully recover," stated Sexton's parents in an FSU news release.

Sexton's case was "advanced" and had infected the player's organs, states the release.

"Wyatt has active Lyme disease that has resulted in neuropsychiatric and cardiovascular deficits," states S. Chandra Swami, MD, in the release.

Swami, who works in Hermitage, Pa., diagnosed Sexton with Lyme disease and recommended intensive IV antibiotic therapy "over a period of months," states the release.

Lyme disease is carried by a bacterium that lives on ticks.

'Extraordinarily Rare' Case

"This would be extraordinarily unusual," Stephen Gluckman, MD, tells WebMD.

"It can happen, but it's very, very rare," he says, emphasizing that he doesn't know the details of Sexton's case.

"Maybe he's the extraordinary person," says Gluckman. "But most of us aren't, and I wouldn't [want] the public to panic about that."

"Lyme [disease] is very uncommon, and this would be an uncommon appearance of that disease," says Gluckman. "Now, Lyme can -- rarely -- affect the brain. It absolutely can," he says. Spinal fluid tests can indicate that, he notes.

"When it does affect the brain, rarely, it typically does so in a very subacute fashion. It causes dementia that appears over weeks to months, not some sudden change," he says.

"When Lyme involves the brain, it usually doesn't involve other organs," Gluckman also says.

"If you decide someone has Lyme disease involving their central nervous system, the standard treatment is one month," he says.

Days to weeks following the tick bite, most people (80%) who become infected develop a characteristic rash. A red, slowly expanding "bull's-eye" rash (called erythema migrans) is usually seen. Other symptoms include generalized fatigue, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, and joint pain.

If untreated, weeks to months later some patients may develop swollen painful joints; inflammation of the brain can occur along with numbness of the arms and legs from nerve inflammation, according to the CDC.

Rarely, heart problems, such as abnormalities in heart rhythms, inflammation of the tissues surrounding the heart (pericarditis), or enlargement of the heart can occur.

Different View on Lyme Disease

Robert Bransfield, MD, sees lyme disease differently.

He is the associate director for Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, N.J. Bransfield also serves as an advisor to the Lyme Disease Association and is a board member of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society.

"We often see a broad spectrum of symptoms that may be aggression, irritability, depression, anxiety, cognitive impairments, joint problems, [and] other musculoskeletal problems," Bransfield tells WebMD.

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