Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in the United States, with approximately 16,000 new cases reported each year. The disorder was first identified in 1975 when a group of children in Lyme, Connecticut, experienced mysterious arthritis-like symptoms. The deer tick carrying the bacterium B. burgdorferi is responsible for the spread of the disease in the United States. Cases have been reported in nearly all states, and the disease is also on the rise in large areas of Asia and Europe.

Signs and Symptoms

Lyme disease is accompanied by the following signs and symptoms:

What Causes It?

Ixodes ticks carrying the bacterium B. burgdorferi bite people. The bacteria enter the skin at the site of the bite, after the infected tick has been in place 36 to 48 hours. Symptoms are primarily due to the body's response to this invasion.

Who's Most At Risk?

The following factors increase the risk for developing Lyme disease.

What to Expect at Your Provider's Office

Lyme disease can be difficult to diagnose because many of its symptoms mimic those of other disorders. About one quarter of people with Lyme disease do not develop a rash. Your healthcare provider will consider your risk factors and will check your blood for antibodies against B. burgdorferi to confirm the presence of the bacterium. A spinal tap may be performed to detect brain and spinal cord inflammation and to examine antibodies or genetic material of B. burgdorferi in the spinal fluid.

Treatment Options


The best defense against Lyme disease is to guard against tick bites. Avoid heavily wooded areas, wear protective clothing, and apply tick repellant. Wear light-colored clothing (which makes ticks easier to detect), do a careful inspection of your body after outdoor activities in wooded or grassy areas, and, if ticks are found, remove them with tweezers. New evidence suggests that it may even be possible to prevent Lyme disease if antibiotics are administered within 3 days of a tick bite.

A vaccine against Lyme disease was approved by the FDA in December 1998. The vaccine is recommended for those who live, travel, or work in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent. Studies indicate that the vaccine is about 80% effective.

Drug Therapies

Your provider may prescribe the following medications:

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Lyme disease affects many body systems, so treatment that includes complementary therapies, such as homeopathy and stress management, may have benefits. Chiropractic therapy may help relieve pain, make you more mobile, and improve range of motion.

These nutritional factors may help in treating Lyme disease; each of these should be discussed with your healthcare provider before using: Herbs Homeopathy
There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend treatments for Lyme disease based on their knowledge and clinical experience. Typically, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type before prescribing a remedy. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. In some cases, such as Lyme disease, a professional homeopath may prescribe specific remedies without considering the individual's constitutional state. Such remedies for Lyme disease include: Acupuncture
Acupuncture may help relieve pain, increase mobility, and reduce fatigue. Chinese herbal formulas, used by many acupuncturists, may help resolve joint, muscular, and neurological symptoms from B. burgdorferi infection after many courses of antibiotics.

Massage therapy may help relieve muscle pain and increase mobility as part of a physical therapy program.

Prognosis/Possible Complications

The long-term prognosis for most patients treated with antibiotics is excellent. Delay in treatment can result in complications.

Following Up

If you have a severe and advanced case of Lyme disease with varied symptoms, your provider may want to see you regularly.


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