Celebrities like Yolanda Hadid and Alec Baldwin have opened up about their struggles with Lyme disease, but what exactly is this health condition?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans through bites from infected ticks. It is the most common vector-borne illness in the U.S., affecting about 30,000 Americans each year. Some people with Lyme develop a bullseye-shaped rash at the site of the tick bite. Others may experience symptoms like fever, headache, or fatigue.
Acute Lyme infections are diagnosed via observation of physical symptoms and laboratory testing. If your doctor thinks you have Lyme, you’ll typically be prescribed an antibiotic to combat the infection.
Since many Lyme symptoms are also associated with other illnesses, acute infections sometimes go undiagnosed. If left untreated for too long, the infection can spread to the joints, heart, and nervous system, resulting in chronic health issues.
This form of Lyme, called Post-Treatment Lyme Disease (PTLD), is believed to be the result of a severe autoimmune response to the initial infection. (It’s sometimes referred to as Chronic Lyme Disease, or CLD, although many experts don’t use this term because it lacks a clear clinical definition.) PTLD symptoms range in severity, from brain fog, to prolonged muscle or joint pain, to disabling, full-body exhaustion. This illness is incurable, although there are some treatments to manage symptoms.
Since Lyme disease spreads via ticks, it’s super important to look out for tick bites in situations where exposure is likely — especially during the spring and summer, when these pesky, tiny bugs are out in full force. The CDC recommends treating your clothing or gear with the insecticide Permethrin and performing full-body tick checks after spending time outdoor in wooded areas. (If you find a tick on yourself or your child, here’s how you should remove it.)
Living with an invisible illness like PLTD can be lonely and terrifying, especially when your symptoms aren’t under control. That’s why many celebrities who have this condition have chosen to use their platforms to spread awareness about Lyme Disease treatment and prevention.
Keep reading to learn more about how Lyme has affected the lives of celebs like Bella Hadid, Shania Twain, and Justin Bieber, among others.
Yolanda Hadid was diagnosed with a severe, neurological case of Lyme disease in 2012. At the time, a specialist found evidence of an active infection in her brain.
In the years since, the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills alum has undergone numerous procedures to alleviate Lyme symptoms like brain fog, fatigue, and migraines. Her symptoms were so debilitating, she once contemplated death by suicide.
Hadid chronicled her arduous health journey in her 2017 memoir, Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease. More recently, the reality TV personality revealed that she suffered a “Lyme relapse” following the death of her mother in 2021.
“After the loss of my mother I really struggled with depression followed by a lyme relapse…. the emotional stress and grief strongly effected my immune system,” she wrote to her 3.8 million Instagram followers. “[I’m] learning to focus on myself, my health journey and being present in this moment of my life.”
Bella Hadid, Yolanda’s daughter, also contracted the tick-borne illness in 2012. As Elle reported, the supermodel was just 16 years old when she began experiencing symptoms like difficulty walking, joint pain, and nausea.
Although Bella has learned how to live with Lyme, she still experiences symptoms like swelling, fatigue, and anxiety. In a candid Tiktok post from March, Bella got real about why she hates “looking in the mirror or taking pictures, especially lately.”
“When I’m working a lot, [fashion week], stressed etc. (aka always) my skin changes colour, I break out randomly, I get (what feels like) lesions, lethargy, chronic anxiety, zero motivation or purpose, leaky gut, adrenals, [depression],” she explained.
“Years and years of this. If I’m all dolled up maybe I’ll try for the girls, but man is it hard to do this as your profession while also feeling/looking sick like this,” Bella continued.
Shania Twain came down with Lyme disease in 2003 after she was bitten by tick while horseback riding. She opened up about the harrowing experience in her 2022 Netflix documentary, Shania Twain: Not Just a Girl.
“My symptoms were quite scary because before I was diagnosed, I was on stage very dizzy,” the country music superstar revealed in the doc, per Vanity Fair. “I was losing my balance, I was afraid I was gonna fall off the stage… I was having these very, very, very millisecond blackouts, but regularly, every minute or every 30 seconds.”
Lyme also affected Twain’s voice. For years, she thought she’d “lost [her] voice forever” and would never sing again. Luckily, the “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” singer now has a “grip” on her symptoms and is making music again.
“I have a different voice now, but I own it,” Twain added. “I love my voice now.”
Alec Baldwin was first bitten by tick 20 years ago, which left him bedridden with cold sweats and soreness.
“August of one summer I was standing on my friend’s porch at night, and it was a cool evening — it wasn’t a hot, steamy evening — and I felt literally this wave go over my back and over my shoulders and kind of wrap around me like a chill,” the 30 Rock star said of his initial infection in a 2021 podcast interview. “And I got just attacked. It came like someone snapped their fingers and put a spell on me.”
Baldwin has since experienced additional tick bites. To this day, he deals with lingering Lyme symptoms like “inexplicable” joint pain.
Avril Lavigne’s Lyme disease symptoms left her bedridden for the better part of two years, the singer-songwriter revealed in a 2018 cover story for Billboard magazine.
“I’m achy, I’m fatigued, I cannot get the f*ck out of bed — what the f*ck is wrong with me?” Lavigne recalled of her early days battling the tick-borne illness. Her severe fatigue prompted her to seek medical attention, but it still took years for doctors to accurately diagnose her.
Lavigne’s symptoms were so debilitating, she was forced to take a break from making music. It wasn’t until 2018 that she finally felt healthy enough to write and perform again.
“Having gone through the battle of my lifetime, I’m stronger than ever and looking forward to sharing my renewed voice and energy for my life with my fans through this new music,” she wrote on her website that year, per TODAY.
Justin Bieber first opened up about his Lyme diagnosis in 2020. At the time, the pop singer was fielding many disparaging comments about his appearance.
“While a lot of people kept saying Justin Bieber looks like shit, on meth etc. they failed to realize I’ve been recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, not only that but had a serious case of chronic mono which affected my, skin, brain function, energy, and overall health,” Bieber wrote on Instagram, per CNN.
“It’s been a rough couple years,” he added at the time, “but [I’m] getting the right treatment that will help treat this so far incurable disease and I will be back and better than ever.”
Bieber later detailed the “scary symptoms” he endured in a 10-part autobiographical YouTube series called Seasons.
Amy Schumer revealed her Lyme diagnosis in a lighthearted Instagram post from 2020, which featured a throwback pic of the actress and comedian as a child.
“My first ever fishing pole,” Schumer wrote to her 12.9 million followers. “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? I know to stay out of the sun.”
She signed off her post on a more serious note: “I also want to say that I feel good and am excited to get rid of it.”
When Parker Posey first experienced red flags of Lyme disease in 2009, her symptoms forced her to withdraw from a starring role in a Playwrights Horizons’ production of This.
The beloved indie film actress has kept her health journey fairly private, although she did speak out in 2009 about how holistic interventions helped ease her symptoms after undergoing a course of antibiotics for Lyme.
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