Winning the Fight
With a combination of experience and expertise, Dr. Joseph Garabedian helps patients with Lyme disease combat symptoms for healthier living
by Phil Gianficaro

There’s no cure for Lyme disease, which can severely compromise the human immune system. Until medical science develops that elusive magic bullet, however, sufferers of the debilitating condition caused by a single tick bite have the next best thing: Joseph Garabedian, M.D.

Dr. Garabedian, who founded The Garabedian Clinic in King of Prussia three years ago, is a leading authority in diagnosing, treating and controlling the negative, life-altering effects of Lyme. By implementing an integrative approach that includes a blend of traditional and holistic medicines that improve and enhance the immune system response, Dr. Garabedian and his knowledgeable staff have returned to his patients a quality of life believed gone forever.

“Many of my patients have usually been seen by many, many other doctors before who treated them only with limited courses of antibiotics,” Dr. Garabedian says. “That is not sufficient; traditional approaches are not adequate enough. Lyme is smart; it avoids antibiotics by changing its morphology. It’s the chameleon of infections. Lyme has cycles, meaning it comes to the blood stream for a week or 10 days, then goes dormant for three weeks, then returns to the blood again. In many instances, it hides in distant areas of the brain, lymph nodes and joints—areas not well covered by antibiotics.

“We know that whenever Lyme is exposed to antibiotics, it wraps itself in a cocoon called cystic form that’s impenetrable by antibiotics,” he continues. “And because it’s such a small particle, it can easily cross the brain barrier; that’s why most of the problems it causes are neurological. It’s an insidious disease.”

Lyme, which is carried by ticks from deer, as well as various other animals and birds, is the most common tick-borne disease in the northern hemisphere. Early symptoms include fever, headache, joint aches and fatigue. If left untreated properly, advanced symptoms compromise the heart, the joints and the central nervous system. Patients in advanced stages of Lyme often experience lethargy, tingling and numbness of the extremities, as well as mood swings, forgetfulness, tremors, ringing in the ears and headache.

Barbara Egger knows those symptoms all too intimately. A 58-year-old resident of Burlington County, N.J., Egger has been victimized by the effects of Lyme for 25 years, never realizing she had been bitten by a tick. At first, she began feeling not quite herself. Doctors incorrectly diagnosed her with Graves’ disease, and later lupus, and put her on medications including Prozac.

Not only was Egger not improving, but she also began to regress. By the time she turned 40 she had lost faith in traditional medicine and turned to alternative treatments and meditation. She sold her business to eliminate stress, believing that might help. She even went to school to become a holistic health counselor in an attempt to “fix herself.” Nothing helped. Still not feeling she was back to her old self, she began seeing Dr. Garabedian last year.

“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” Egger says. “They talked to me for over an hour, asked about my history, and about when I began feeling poorly. They did blood work and found I had a lot of viruses, and I began doing supplements.

“About three months ago, they finally found out I had Lyme, and started me on antibiotics, antivirals and supplements,” she continues. “Now, I’m feeling like I did in my 20s. I have so much energy. Where I used to have seven bad days a week, now I have only one. I can finally live a normal life I thought was impossible. Without Dr. Garabedian, I don’t think that would be possible.”

Sarah Burnett, a nurse at The Garabedian Clinic for nearly three years, has witnessed the decreased quality of life experienced by those suffering with Lyme. She has offered an understanding ear to all patients, including those who, before being diagnosed with Lyme by Dr. Garabedian, were convinced their worsening symptoms were the onset of Parkinson’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“There’s a fear patients have of finding out what they have is very serious,” Burnett says. “For some people who find out they have Lyme, it’s scary. For others, they feel great once they have an answer. It’s a sense of relief we give them.”

Andrea Dean, a nurse practitioner at The Garabedian Clinic the past two years, believes the most value thing she and the staff give them—besides an accurate diagnosis—is hope.

“When patients come to us, they realize they’ve found the right place to start feeling better,” Dean says. “Some patients have seen 20 or 30 different doctors before they come to us. We stabilize their body with hormones, rebuild the immune system. We help the body fight. But we also help patients with how much we care about them as people.”

As much satisfaction as the patients get from Dr. Garabedian and his staff, the staff itself derives its share as well.

“The self-satisfaction is incredible when you see a patient improve,” Dean says. “We get as much from them as they get from us. The whole process is amazing. We can’t cure them, but we can help them.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 300,000 new cases of Lyme are diagnosed in the United States each year. Prior to that new report, the CDC had believed the number of new cases per year to be a tenth of that. Dr. Garabedian believes the total number of new Lyme patients each year may be closer to more than 500,000.

What concerns Dr. Garabedian most, even more than the disease’s escalation, are the outdated protocols of treatment that some practitioners continue to use and promote.

“The government came up with that 300,000 number last October, which immediately suggests we’re not diagnosing Lyme correctly or treating it correctly,” Dr. Garabedian says. “Perhaps one of the best things to come from that CDC report is that a lot more attention is being focused on how to diagnose and treat it. If we don’t do that, it will become more prominent and aggressive.”

Dr. Garabedian believes Lyme disease has reached epidemic proportions.

“I tell patients that if we continue to diagnose and treat Lyme the way we do today,” he says, “I believe that by 2050, 50 percent of the world’s population will have Lyme disease. It’s that serious of a problem.”

The Garabedian Clinic
491 Allendale Road, Suite 222
King of Prussia, PA 19406

Photography by Jody Robinson