Ben Stiller health: Star’s ‘arthritic’ Lyme disease symptoms – ‘it’s a really tough thing’

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Stiller, whose film The Cable Guy back in 1996 grossed over $100 million worldwide, developed knee pain that got “worse and worse” during a trip to Africa. At first, he thought it was due to an injury he had while he was out there. But after several doctor’s appointments, it was revealed that he had been infected with Lyme disease back home in America which was causing arthritis-like symptoms.

He told the Hollywood Reporter in 2011, after contracting the disease, that he got infected in Nantucket, an island in Massachusetts although his symptoms first cropped up during his trip to Africa.

“My knee became inflamed and they couldn’t figure out what it was, then they found out it was Lyme,” he said, glossing over his health ordeal.

Lyme disease occurs from a bacterial infection that is given to humans by ticks infected with the disease. Ticks are small creatures that feed on the blood of mammals.

A common symptom of Lyme disease is a rash that comes roughly one to four weeks, or sometimes months, after the infection. This rash may be circular or oval around the tick bite.

But that’s not what Stiller experienced.

Instead, the actor developed “arthritic elements” while on a philanthropic trip to Mozambique in East Africa in 2010.

On David Letterman’s The Late Show, Stiller revealed that during the trip, which he left with a limp, his knee became “stiff and worse and worse” after he fell into a hidden ditch outside one of the villages in the country.

The star visited several doctors who eventually came to the conclusion that it was probably Lyme disease, which is common on the East Coast of the USA.

“I came back to New York, went to a doctor here, they did an MRI (scan), discovered some arthritic elements,” he told Letterman.

“It got worse, then I went back home to Los Angeles and went to see another doctor, apparently the best knee guy. He looked at it and said, ‘You got a lot of fluid there, we gotta drain some of the blood out.’ So he stuck a needle in and sucked out the blood.

“He had this look in his eye and was like, ‘This isn’t blood.’ I said to him, ‘What is it?’ and he said, ‘I don’t know.’”

Before long Stiller received a phone call at two in the morning while he was in New York preparing for the Letterman show. His doctor confirmed: “It’s looking like Lyme disease.”

According to the NHS, a few people with the disease can develop long-term symptoms, known as post-infectious Lyme disease.

These symptoms are similar to fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue.

Luckily, Stiller did not develop any long-term problems and told the Hollywood reporter he was “symptom-free now” although he warned that “Lyme doesn’t ever leave your system.”

“It’s a really tough thing,” Stiller said.

Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, it is treated with antibiotics, which can clear the infection from the body.

However, some people continue to experience chronic symptoms from the conditions despite their treatment, suggests the Mayo Clinic.

It is not currently known why these people’s symptoms continue.

There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk of developing Lyme disease, which the NHS recommends.

Since Lyme disease-carrying ticks tend to live in woodland vegetation, you could stay on clear paths where possible, cover your skin while walking outdoors, or use insect repellent on your skin and clothes.

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