Infectious Diseases Data Verified

Lyme Disease

Written by
Dr. Sneha Kannan
and medically reviewed by Dr. Pratik Patil

Published on Jun 08, 2019 and last reviewed on Aug 31, 2019   -  4 min read



Lyme disease, otherwise called Lyme borreliosis, is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacteria Borreliathis disease can affect various tissues in the body and cause a lot of symptoms, which can last for several months or even years.

Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, otherwise called Lyme borreliosis, is a tick-borne disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia. It was first reported in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975, hence the name. If left untreated, this disease can affect various tissues in the body and cause a lot of symptoms, which can last for several months or even years.

What Causes Lyme Disease?

The four main species that cause this disease are Borrelia burgdorferi, mayonii, afzelii, and garinii. It is spread to humans by the bite of an infected deer tick (black-legged tick). 7 to 14 days after the tick bite, an erythema migrans (EM) rash appears on the skin. The tick deposits the bacteria when it bites humans and animals. People with pets who spend a lot of time in the woods are more susceptible.

What Are the Stages of Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease usually occurs in three stages:

Stage 1 - Early localized stage.

Stage 2 - Early disseminated stage.

Stage 3 - Late disseminated stage.

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The symptoms vary depending on the stage of the disease.

1) Early localized stage (Acute): The symptoms starts a couple of weeks after the tick bite.

2) Early disseminated stage: Occurs a few weeks after the tick bite.

  • 2 or 3 erythema migrans other than the site of the bite.

  • Migrating pain in the joints.

  • Facial palsy.

  • Neck stiffness.

  • Tingling sensation in hands and legs.

  • More than one enlarged lymph nodes.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Sore throat.

  • Fever more than 101℉.

  • Vision changes.

  • Fatigue.

  • Abnormal pulse.

3) Late disseminated stage: This stage occurs after some weeks to years when the infection is left untreated.

  • Pain or swelling (arthritis) of one or two joints.

  • Confusion.

  • Dizziness.

  • Heart rhythm problem.

  • Heart palpitations.

  • Short-term memory loss.

  • Concentration problems.

  • Nerve pain.

  • Numbness in hands and legs.

When to See a Doctor?

Not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease, but it is only caused when an infected tick bites you. The risk increases when the tick remains attached to your skin longer (more than 36 to 48 hours). Get immediate medical help if you develop any of the above symptoms after a tick bite, as the treatment is more effective when started early.

What Are the Risk Factors?

The factors that increase the risk of you getting infected with Lyme disease are:

  • Spending more time in wooded or grassy areas.

  • Wearing clothes that do not cover your body completely.

  • Failure to remove the ticks properly.

  • Letting dogs and other pets wander in the open.

How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?

The signs and symptoms that are seen in this disease are not very specific, as such symptoms can be seen with other diseases also. So if the doctor suspects this illness, he or she might take a complete history which might include the time spent by you outside in summers. After performing physical examinations, the doctor might suggest you get the following tests done:

  • ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay) Test - This detects the presence of antibodies against Borrelia bacteria. As this test can provide false-positive, and the antibodies might not be detected during the early stages, it is not used exclusively for diagnosing this condition.

  • Western Blot Test - This test is done if the ELISA test is positive. The western blot test detects antibodies to many proteins of Borrelia bacteria.

How Is Lyme Disease Treated?

Lyme disease is treated with the help of antibiotics. The sooner the treatment is started, quicker will be the recovery. The antibiotics used are:

  • Oral Antibiotics - Doxycycline, Amoxicillin, or Cefuroxime is used for 14 to 21 days during the early stage of this disease.

  • Intravenous Antibiotics - Antibiotics are given intravenously if your central nervous system is affected.

What Are the Complications of Lyme Disease?

If left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to the following complications:

  1. Lyme arthritis - joint inflammation.

  2. Facial palsy.

  3. Neuropathy - nerve pain.

  4. Memory problems.

  5. Heart arrhythmias.

How to Find out If a Tick Has Bitten You?

Tick bites are usually painless and go unnoticed as they are the size of a poppy seed. So whenever you go out camping or spend time walking in woods or tall grass areas, check yourself and your pets and clothes for ticks. Carefully examine yourself under the shower after taking off your clothes.

If you are allergic to a tick bite, you will notice the bite right away.

How to Remove a Tick Properly?

As soon as you spot a tick, carefully remove it with a fine-tipped tweezer, which will be available in a pharmacy. With the help of the tweezer, grab the tick as close to the skin as possible and while applying a steady pressure pull the tick upwards. Remove all the parts of the tick left under the skin and wipe the area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water.

Place the removed tick in soapy water or alcohol, stick it to a tape, or flush it down the toilet.

How Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented?

You can avoid getting bitten by ticks by following these steps:

  • Wear a full-sleeved shirt, long pants, hat, and gloves when you go in wooded or grassy areas.

  • Apply insect repellents.

  • Check your clothes, pets, and children for ticks after you spend time in wooded or grassy areas.

  • As soon as you spot a tick, remove it with the help of a tweezer.

For more information on Lyme disease and ways to prevent this disease, consult our doctors online through phone or video consultation.


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Last reviewed at:
31 Aug 2019  -  4 min read




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