On 6 August 2023, supermodel Bella Hadid shared an Instagram post about her long battle with Lyme disease. Hadid has often spoken about her struggles with the bacterial infection.
In the update, Hadid said that her younger self would be proud she is not “giving up” on herself and thanked her mother, Yolanda, for her support.
“Thankful to my mommy for keeping all of my medical records, sticking by me, never leaving my side, protecting, supporting, but most of all, believing me through all of this,” she wrote, before revealing more about her condition.
“Living in this state, worsening with time and work while trying to make myself, my family and the people who support me, proud, had taken a toll on me in ways I can’t really explain. To be that sad and sick with the most blessings/privilege/opportunity/love around me was quite possibly the most confusing thing ever,” Hadid added.
The supermodel assured her legions of fans that there is nothing to worry about.
“If I had to go through all of this again, to get here, to this exact moment I’m in right now, with all of you, finally healthy, I would do it all again. It made me who I am today,” she further wrote.
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“This 100+ days of Lyme, chronic disease, co-infection treatment, almost 15 years of invisible suffering, was all worth it if I’m able to, God willing, have a lifetime of spreading love from a full cup, and being able to truly be myself, For the first time ever,” she wrote.
Additionally, Hadid shared pictures in which she can be seen receiving treatment and medical records of her diagnosis from 2013, 2014 and 2016, which highlighted the disease-causing microbes detected in her body. According to Today, Yolanda, too, was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2012.
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What is Lyme disease, and what causes it?
Lyme disease was discovered in the small town of Lyme in Connecticut, US, and two nearby towns in 1975 after several children were diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. Subsequent research revealed that the arthritis outbreak was a result of bites from infected deer ticks, also known as black-legged ticks because of the colour of their legs.
More research identified the cause of the disease as the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi as well as, though rarely, Borrelia mayonii. The infected ticks transmit the bacterium to humans through a bite.
In the US, Lyme disease is most common in the upper Midwest and the northeastern and mid-Atlantic states. Southeastern Canada is also where the disease can be commonly found. In the UK, the high-risk places are Scottish Highlands and the grassy and wooded areas in southern and northern England.
However, it is noteworthy that the infection is not carried by Dermacentor variabilis, famously known as the American dog tick or wood tick.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
The most distinctive symptom is a circular or oval-shaped skin rash called erythema migrans. It usually appears within one to four weeks at the spot where an infected tick bites. But it may also take up to three months to appear.
The rash typically lasts several weeks. It might even gradually spread around the bitten part. The centre may have a dark or light area, with a pinkish, reddish or purplish appearance on white skin and a bruise-like appearance on darker skin. However, the rash is neither itchy nor does it cause a burning sensation, though it may be warm to the touch.
After the appearance of the rash, infected people may feel typical symptoms of Lyme disease, which include extreme fatigue, headache and fever. Joint pain, stiffness and muscle aches are also common symptoms.
Aggravated symptoms could be painful swelling in tissues of the eyelid and eyes, multiple rashes on the body and irregular heartbeats. There can also be loss of vision because of immune-system activity in the nerves of the eye.
When symptoms reach a late stage, the most common condition is arthritis. This condition can begin two months after the bite but might also show up after 12 months.
What is the treatment for Lyme disease?
There is no vaccine for Lyme disease, but it is curable.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US national public health agency, states that a few weeks of antibiotics can successfully treat most cases. An early diagnosis, however, is the best situation for a more effective treatment.
The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) says that two types of blood tests may help determine Lyme disease. The tests may not be accurate in the early stages of the disease, which means that there can be the need for a retest if early tests show negative results, but symptoms remain.
While a long course of antibiotics can cure Lyme disease, those with particularly severe symptoms may need to be hospitalised.
But the CDC notes that there can be persistent symptoms of the disease even after treatment. It says that scientific information about persistent symptoms is “limited, emerging, and unsettled.” This is why the CDC makes no recommendations for the treatment of persistent symptoms in people who have already been treated for Lyme disease.
How to prevent getting infected?
Prevention is the best cure, as the saying goes.
Avoid visiting areas infested by these bacteria-carrying ticks at all costs. If you have to go to such a place, wear clothes that cover your hands, legs and other exposed parts of your body to avoid getting bitten. Opt for light-coloured apparel to spot the ticks better and brush them off.
Using insect repellent on your clothes is another way to keep these ticks away. It is always ideal to walk on a clear path even in grassy areas.
Famous people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease
Country music icon Shania Twain shared her harrowing experience with Lyme disease in the Netflix documentary Not Just a Girl (2022), which is about her life and career.
She said that she got the disease while on a music tour for her hit album Up! sometime between September 2003 to July 2004. It affected her singing, and she used to black out on stage during live performances.
“I was horseback riding, and I was bit by a tick. The tick was infected with Lyme disease,” Twain said, according to Today.
“My symptoms were quite scary, because before I was diagnosed, I was on stage very dizzy, I was losing my balance, I was afraid I was going to fall off the stage. I was having these very, very millisecond blackouts, but regularly — every minute or every 30 seconds,” added Twain.
She had earlier spoken about her condition on British talk show Loose Women. “Our voices are such a huge part of our self-expression, and for a vocalist it’s devastating in so many ways,” she shared on the show in 2020.
“Until I got to the bottom of why I was having a problem with my voice, there wasn’t much I could do about it, and it took a long time. Thankfully I persevered, and I am making records again and putting on concerts,” she added.
According to Twain, doctors took seven years to realise that Lyme disease was the cause of the nerve damage to her vocal cords that led to changes in her voice.
The famous stand-up comedian and actor revealed that she had Lyme disease in an Instagram post in September 2020.
“Anyone get LYME this summer? I got it and I’m on doxycycline. I have maybe had it for years. Any advice? Can you have a glass of wine or 2 on it?” she wrote, in her characteristic humorous style.
“I want to say that I feel good and am excited to get rid of it,” she added.
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Doxycycline, which Schumer mentioned in her post, is a prescription oral antibiotic used to treat Lyme disease.
The Canadian pop icon was forced to speak about his Lyme disease diagnosis in an Instagram post in January 2020 after online bullies passed negative comments about his physical appearance based on pictures from July 2019.
“While a lot of people kept saying Justin Bieber looks like s***, on meth etc. they failed to realize I’ve been recently diagnosed with Lyme disease,” he wrote in the post, which is now deleted.
“It’s been a rough couple [sic.] years but getting the right treatment will help … and I will be back and better than ever,” he added.
In August 2021, he posted an Instagram Story, calling out the media for using pictures from the time he was unwell.
“I’m still in shock we are still using these photos of me, I’m telling you media wants to pick bad photos of me to make it look like I’m not okay,” he wrote, adding, “There have been countless photo shoots and oppertunities[sic.] for media to pick up other photos but they still run with this one to make me look sick and unwell, its[sic.] not right.”
The namesake foundation of the “Sk8er Boi” hitmaker helps spread awareness about Lyme disease and raise funds for organisations that work in the field. Lyme disease was also the inspiration for her 2018 album Head Above Water.
Lavigne was diagnosed with the disease in 2014, a fact she first spoke about in a 2015 interview with PEOPLE.
“I had no idea a bug bite could do this. I was bedridden for five months,” the Canadian singer-songwriter told the magazine.
Since then, Lavigne has spoken about her disease in multiple interviews. She told Billboard in 2018 that she had to struggle to get a diagnosis due to the peculiarity of the condition and was in bed for two years because of fatigue.
Speaking about her foundation’s work on Lyme disease awareness, Lavigne told PEOPLE in 2019, “When you go through something like that, you realize how fulfilling simple things are — things I couldn’t do anymore, like being able to get up in the morning and go to the kitchen and grab a cup of coffee. It taught me patience; it taught me being more present. That was a beautiful lesson.”
The English TV personality revealed her struggle with Lyme disease in her 2017 book, There Is No F*cking Secret: Letters From a Badass Bitch. She wrote that she was bitten by a tick on a reindeer farm at her father Ozzy Osbourne’s 56th birthday party in 2004.
Though she suffered from stomach pain and sore throat for close to a decade, doctors merely kept changing prescriptions, but no tests were done to detect Lyme disease. It was only after an alternative medical specialist tested her that Osbourne found she had been suffering from the disease.
Osbourne said that she has now “learned to advocate for myself when it comes to my health, and I trust my intuition.”
She also admitted that she was initially reluctant to reveal her medical condition, but was writing about it because “it seems like the trendy disease to have right now, and I’m tired of seeing sad celebrities play the victim on the cover of weekly mags.”
The Night at the Museum franchise (2006-2014) actor was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2010.
“I got it in Nantucket, Massachusetts, a couple of years ago. My knee became inflamed and they couldn’t figure out what it was, then they found out it was Lyme,” Stiller told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’m symptom-free now, but … it’s a really tough thing,” he added.
The former Bachelorette winner and firefighter Ryan Sutter revealed in May 2021 that he had Lyme disease. The revelation came after Sutter suffered from an undiagnosed illness during the COVID-19 pandemic and said that he had an “almost-paralysing fatigue.”
Speaking on wife Trista Sutter’s podcast, Better Etc., he said that tests on him conducted by medical professionals through 2020 revealed that the Lyme disease had become severe because of exposure to mould due to his work as a firefighter.
“It seems to be that what happened is that my immune system was weakened through exposures to toxins and especially to mold,” he said, adding, “There are other people in the fire academy that probably had the same exposures who aren’t dealing with these exposures because their genetics are stronger, they’re able to get rid of the toxins easier.”
The couple spoke to PEOPLE in June 2022, when they revealed that Ryan Sutter is doing well.
“For so long, I was only thinking about how to survive the day. But I feel like my life is coming back. And that’s been really encouraging,” Sutter said.
In April 2014, American singer-songwriter Debbie Gibson wrote about herself having Lyme disease in a personal blog after pictures of her on social media made her fans concerned.
“At the start of 2013, I spent time both on the West and East Coast followed by travel overseas. I am not exactly sure when or where I picked it up, but, in the early spring, I began to show unusual symptoms. A lot of Lyme symptoms mimic symptoms of anxiety and stress,” she wrote.
In the long blog post, Gibson revealed how the disease affected her performance, caused weight loss and plunged her into depression. She also wrote about the difficulties she faced in getting a diagnosis that would identify the disease.
Later, in 2017, she joined the cast of the 25th season of Dancing with the Stars. At the time, she told PEOPLE, “It’s a different challenge. I can’t be cavalier with my body. I can’t just push myself without thinking what what[sic.] happens next. [Lyme Disease] can affect my stamina.”
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In August 2021, she once again discussed her health issue with PEOPLE. By this time, she had been living with the disease for eight years.
“I’ve taken that word [Lyme] out of my vocabulary. For me, it’s about being zen and open, listening for answers and yes, being a warrior, but a peaceful warrior and moving through things. When you’ve lived enough life, you start to move through things with more ease,” she said.
“I know I can get through it. And every time I get through it, I’m reminded of how strong we all are,” Gibson added.
(Hero image: Michael Kors/@MichaelKors/Twitter; Featured image: Bella/@bellahadid/Instagram)
This story first appeared on Prestige Online Malaysia
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Answer: Lyme disease weakens the body. Its symptoms include fever, extreme fatigue and joint pain.
Answer: The bacterium named Borrelia burgdorferi is the main cause of Lyme disease. It can be transmitted into the body with the bite of an infected deer tick.
Answer: Fever, headache and fatigue are the three most common symptoms of Lyme disease. Rashes on the body also become visible in most cases.
Answer: Yes, Lyme disease can become serious if left untreated or not diagnosed on time.