Lyme Disease Treatment, Prevention, Stages And Symptoms: A Guide

Lyme Disease Treatment, Prevention, Stages And Symptoms: A Guide

It is hard to imagine that a simple tick bite can cause something as severe as Lyme disease. Lyme diseases has a lot of symptoms, including fever, numbness and rashes. However, if left untreated the disease can damage the nervous system, joints and muscles in your body. Thankfully, Lyme disease treatment is possible and the treatment is done through antibiotic medications.

There are also some home remedies that help fight this health condition. Want to know more about Lyme disease and its treatment?

Here is your 101 guide. 

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by infestation of Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria. These bacteria enter our blood strain when infested deer ticks bite us. 

The history of this disease goes back to 1975 and it has its name from Lyme, Connecticut, when the symptoms of this disease were first observed. The children in Lyme and two neighboring towns at that time were diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.  

Researchers discovered that the sudden outbreak of deer ticks was the reason behind the increase of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

In recent past, there has been sudden increase in the number of deer ticks due to climatic changes and many other reasons. The northeastern part of the USA now has more trees planted, giving boost to the number of deer in that region. 

Further, with successful management of wildlife, the number of deer in the US has also gone up dramatically and these ticks get the bacteria causing Lyme disease from deer and mice.

In addition, global climatic change is a major reason behind the increase of ticks in the USA. So, we need to be careful about the causes, symptoms, preventive measures and treatment of the disease more than ever before. 

Which Ticks Cause Lyme Disease? 

Deer ticks or ticks with black legs cause Lyme disease when they are infected with Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria.

These ticks get attached and crawl all over the body. As they feed on your skin and bite you, the bacteria enter your bloodstream and cause Lyme disease.

What Are The Stages Of Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease has three stages and symptoms change at each stage. These stages are early localized Lyme, Early disseminated Lyme, and Late disseminated Lyme.

Early Localized Lyme

The early localized Lyme stage starts within three days to one month after tick bites. At this stage, you will have circular or bull’s-eye rashes in red, purple or pink colors. The rashes will be around 2-inch in dimension.

However, you may not get rashes from Lyme disease. So, you need to watch out for other symptoms like fever, chill, sore throat, headache and swollen lymph nodes. 

Early Disseminated Lyme

At this stage, the symptoms are severer and very similar to common flu. You may face weakness, numbness in arms and legs, faster heartbeats, chest pain and rashes.

One alarming condition at this stage is facial paralysis. Your face may droop on one side or both sides because of facial paralysis.

Late Disseminated Lyme

Lyme disease can enter this stage after a few weeks, months or years of deer tick bites. The symptoms at this stage are arthritis, confusing, sleeping disorders, inflammation in the brain and spine, headaches and confusion. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Disease?

Not everyone affected by the Lyme disease experiences or notices the symptoms at the same time. The signs or symptoms may be prominent within as early as three days, or the disease can show symptoms after a few months of the tick bites or bacteria infestation. 

The most prominent symptom of Lyme disease is the red circular or “bull’s-eye” rashes. However, some people may not have the rashes or fail to notice the rashes if those are not visible body parts. Those rashes are not itchy.

Other symptoms of this tick-borne disease are:

  • Fever
  • Mild to severe headache
  • Weakness
  • Tingling in hands and feet
  • Pain in muscles and joints, especially severe knee pain
  • Chills
  • Swelled up lymph nodes
  • Numbness
  • Visual problems
  • Swelling of joints

How Can I Identify The Lyme Disease Rashes?

In Lyme diseases, the rashes can be visible on your skin in as early as one month. Some people also have these rashes after 3-4 months of being bitten by the ticks.

The rashes can be flat or raised and mostly red in color. However, these rashes can also be purple or pink in shade.

You can have round Lyme disease rashes or rashes looking like a bull’s eye. Usually, the rashes are 2-inches across in the beginning but can be as big as 12 inches. 

In Lyme disease, you can have rashes on any part of your body and they are most visible on lighter skins. So, if you have a darker skin tone, early detection can be a little difficult as those rashes will look like normal bruise marks. 

Why Is Lyme Disease A Serious Health Concern?

Lyme disease is one of the most popular health concerns in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

This disease caused by tick bites and the transmission of Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria bring some minor to severe health problems.

Along with the common symptoms like fever, rashes and fatigue, Lyme disease can lead to cardiac, nervous and joint problems. In addition, the ticks spreading Lyme disease can invite other tick-borne diseases

If Lyme disease is not treated on time, it will cause severe headache and stiffness in the neck. The severer conditions caused by delayed/no treatment of Lyme disease are irregular heartbeats, rashes all across your heartbeat, arthritis, and joint pain and swelling, especially severe knee pain.

Neurologic Lyme Disease: The Most Severe Consequence of Lyme Disease

However, the most severe consequence of Lyme Disease is neurologic Lyme Disease. In this condition the peripheral and central nervous systems of your body are affected massively.

Numbness, inflammation in your spinal cord and brain, droopiness in your face (facial paralysis/Bell’s Palsy) and a tingling sensation in the hands and feet are some common symptoms of neurologic Lyme disease.

There can also be visual issues, severe pain in your body. In addition, you many experience meningitis symptoms like stiffness in the neck, fever and severe headache. 

So, if you experience any of the symptoms and have been to a bushy or tick-infested area of late, consult your doctor immediately. 

The impact or severity of the disease increases if there is delayed or no treatment. 

Long-Term Effects Of Lyme Disease

Most people affected with Lyme disease are cured with antibiotics. But around 10% of the patients do not get complete cured and suffer from some long-term effects or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

Even after extensive treatment of Lyme disease, these people can still suffer from joint pain, visual problems, fatigue, muscle pain, memory loss, etc. 

These post-treatments symptoms or long-haul effects are hard to diagnose as these are similar to the symptoms of many other health conditions. At the same time, there is no blood test for proper diagnosis.

So, it is difficult to establish and find the reasons behind these symptoms occurring much later.

Many people try to put these symptoms under the umbrella term of Chronic Lyme disease, but the term is very confusing. Experts perceive that when people have Lyme disease, their bodies keep fighting with the disease even after it is cured and thus it takes the form of an autoimmune disease.

Nonetheless, if you want to get a course in the treatment of this disease or a prognosis, you need to understand how chronic Lyme disease is different from the post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome

I have already covered the symptoms of PTLDS and the worst part of these symptoms is that these don’t go away with further administration of antibiotics. These adverse effects only go with time and up to 5-15% people with Lyme disease fall prey to this condition.

However, by no means, the post treatment Lyme disease syndrome indicate that the infection is still there. Usually, PTLDS symptoms go away within a span of six months or so.

Chronic Lyme Disease 

Chronic Lyme disease will have similar symptoms like PTLDS but Chronic Lyme disease treatment is possible with the administration of additional antibiotics. 

Who Need More Treatment For Lyme Disease?

Traditionally, boys up to age 15 and men aged between 40-60 need more treatment for Lyme disease. However, anyone who spends much time outdoor can get bitten by the deer ticks and have Lyme disease.

Outdoor activities to make one more prone to Lyme diseases are golfing, camping, hiking, gardening or just a walk in the woods. 

From Justin Bieber to Shania Twain and Bela Hadid, all these celebs have dealt with this disease. 

How Is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?

If you experience the symptoms of Lyme disease and you consult a doctor, he/she will conduct a diagnosis based on your visits to tick infested areas recently. They will also ask you for a blood test.

However, the blood test will not show “positive results” for Lyme disease if it’s done within one or two weeks of infestation. The antibodies start becoming visible/active in your blood at least after four to six days.

The Centers for Disease Control recommends a two-step blood test for the diagnosis of Lyme Disease. Once the blood sample is drawn, that will be used for the blood test in two stages.

There are multiple possibilities. Check out the table below to know how the diagnosis is done.

Findings In The First TestThe 2nd Step Of Blood Test**
NegativeNo need to do a second test.
Equivocal/Indeterminate (Neither positive nor negative)The same sample goes for a second test.
PositiveThe same sample goes for a second test.

**If the results of both blood tests are positive or equivocal/indeterminate, you will be diagnosed as a Lyme disease positive case. 

The diagnosis of Lyme disease is also done through enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) tests. 

How Can Be Lyme Disease Prevented?

Before I get into the treatment of Lyme disease, I want to share some preventive measures of this disease. 

Tick bites are hardly felt because unlike mosquito bites, you don’t feel any sensation when a tick bites you. And in Lyme Disease, many people do not have those rashes which are most prominent indicators.

Nonetheless, here are the things you need to do to prevent tick bites causing Lyme disease.

Dos For Lyme Disease Prevention

  • Wear clothes in light shades for easy detection of ticks.
  • Take the middle of the trail to avoid direct contact with vegetations grown on the trail sides.
  • Wear long trousers/jeans and tuck that inside your socks to prevent tick infestation.
  • Use DEET insect repellent to get rid of ticks in the infested areas.
  • Check your bare body and clothes thoroughly to find out ticks and get rid of those. This is crucial to remove ticks from your bodies and kill them. If you keep the ticks alive for more than 24 hours by feeding on your skin, they will spread.
  • Use a piece of washing cloth or buff for scrubbing ticks from your body. Ticks will be roaming on your body before biting or feeding on your skin.
  • If you have a pet, consult a veterinarian for tick management and removal from your pet’s body. 

Don’ts For Lyme Disease Prevention

X Roam in brushy areas or spaces with long and overgrown grasses.

X Forget to check yourself and kids after coming back home from outdoor activities in woods or grassy areas.

X Wear shorts while going for hiking.

Effective Lyme Disease Treatment

Antibiotics are used for the treatment of early-stage Lyme disease and chronic Lyme disease. The antibiotic medicines used for the treatment of Lyme diseases and its symptoms or the Lyme disease treatment antibiotics are amoxicillin, doxycycline, cefuroxime. These antibiotic medicines are administered through oral medications or intravenous methods. 

Doctors may prescribe you some other medications based on the symptoms you are having in Lyme disease. For example, doctors may prescribe you some pain relievers if you have severe muscle or joint pains.

Similarly, if you have developed cardiac or neurological health conditions due to Lyme disease, your physician will suggest dedicated medicines to alleviate these problems.

Unfortunately, the symptoms related to post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome or PTLDS have no treatment. Antibiotics don’t work on these symptoms. 

Lyme Disease Natural Treatment

There are some gentler or natural methods for the Lyme disease treatment. These treatments become more effective in fighting post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, which cannot be cured with antibiotics.

Again, these methods are free of major side effects and can promote faster cure when combines with medications.

Here are some natural methods for Lyme disease treatment at different stages. 

Taking Micronutrients To Boost Immunity

Lyme disease happens due to the infestation of bacteria into our bloodstream. That is why improving the immunity system of our bodies can help to promote faster relief from Lyme disease. Certain micronutrients help to increase the immunity power of our bodies.

Some most essential micronutrients for improving the immunity power of our bodies are:

  • Vitamins C and B1
  • Turmeric
  • Magnesium
  • Garlic
  • Cat’s Claw
  • Fish oil, etc.

Using Essential Oils

Some essential oils made from plant extracts can remove B. burgdorferi bacteria, which enters into our bloodstream to cause Lyme disease.  These essential oils are clove bud, oregano and cinnamon bark. However, more clinical trials and testing are required for using these essential oils for the Lyme disease treatment.

Chelation Therapy

Chelation therapy is used for the removal of metal toxicity from our bloodstream and many people suggest it as natural Lyme disease treatment. However, there is no proper medical backing to establish the efficacy of chelation therapy in curing infection in the blood. 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

A case study in 2014 in Taiwan has brought hyperbaric oxygen therapy into the picture as a natural Lyme disease treatment. According to that case study, a person suffering from Lyme Disease got cured by hyperbaric oxygen therapy when he stopped responding to antibiotics.

In hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a patient is kept in a room or hyperbaric chamber where 100% oxygen is kept at a high pressure.

Some Plant-Based Medicines Are Showing Promises 

A report published in Medical News Today has discussed the efficacy of plant-based medicines in curing Lyme disease. Quinine and knotweed are being proposed as the most effective plant-based medicines for Lyme disease treatment.

Dr. Sunjya Schweig, the co-author of the research paper proposing the use of these plant medicines for Lyme disease treatment says,

“Many thousands of Lyme patients today, especially those with later-stage symptoms who have not been effectively treated, are in great need of efficacious, accessible treatment options.”

How Quinine And Knotweed Are Tested And Why They Will Work

In the study, the researchers took as many as fourteen plant extracts to test for Lyme disease treatment. If “lyme disease treatment doxycycline” is still what you are searching for, you probably now have some alternatives as all the plant extracts are tested against cefuroxime and doxycycline.

Among all the plant extracts tested, the Japanese Knotweed and Ghanaian quinine emerged as the most effective Lyme disease treatment alternatives.

The Ghanaian quinine is so effective as it has Cryptolepine. Cryptolepine is an alkaloid, which is already used for many years for the treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, septicaemia and hepatitis. 

On the other hand, the Japanese knotweed comes with the goodness of resveratrol, which is an antioxidant and very effective for improved cardiac and brain health.

Another co-author of the study, Ying Zhang says, 

This study provides the first convincing evidence that some of the herbs used by patients, such as Cryptolepis, black walnut, sweet wormwood, cat’s claw, and Japanese knotweed, have potent activity against Lyme disease bacteria, especially the dormant persister forms, which are not killed by the current Lyme antibiotics.” 

Were These Extracts Successful In Killing Bacteria?

Yes, Japanese knotweed and Ghanaian quinine were successful in the removal of bacteria in the very first week. These plant-based extracts stopped the rapid increase of the bacteria when tested on laboratory plates.

The concentrations were present in very low amount (around 0.3-0.5% concentration) and yet these could show effective results.

Especially, when the Ghanaian quinine extract was used with 1% concentration on the laboratory plate, it could eliminate the traces of bacteria with a single 7-day treatment.

And the best part was that the eliminated bacteria could not make a comeback. These plant-based medications can be especially effective when antibiotics don’t work in the elimination of long-haul effects of Lyme disease.

There is no denial that the increasing cases of Lyme disease and its long-haul effects need some effective and alternative methods of treatment. Many patients and doctors are looking for remedial methods that can complement or increase the efficacy of the traditional Lyme disease treatment using antibiotics.

However, these studies are at a very nascent stage and more pre-clinical trials and researches are needed to establish the efficacy of these methods. So, if you experience some symptoms of Lyme disease and there is a chance of tick infestation, visit a medical practitioner without any delay.

Lyme disease cannot be left untreated as the symptoms can become severe with time and invite life-threatening risks. 

The Takeaway

Lyme disease occurs due to deer tick bites transmitting Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria into our bloodstream. Lyme disease treatment is done through antibiotic medicines.

Most patients suffering from this health condition get cured. However, around 10% of the patients develop long-haul effects of the disease. These long-haul effects can further stop you from leading a healthy life. 

So, if you are into extensive outdoor activities and live in an area with a history of tick infestation, you need to be extremely careful about the preventive measures. Wear long sleeves clothes and full trousers during outdoor activities and be particular about pest and tick control. Use DEET repellents to get rid of ticks and wash your body and clothes properly after coming home from outdoor activities in bushy or grassy areas. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Lyme Disease Curable?

Yes, Lyme disease is curable and doctors prescribe antibiotic medicines like doxycycline, amoxicillin, cefuroxime for Lyme disease treatment. Usually, a person is asked to take these medicines for a period of ten days to three weeks.

However, among the people affected by Lyme disease, around 10% suffer from Chronic Lyme disease or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). The symptoms in these conditions include headache, blurry vision, joint pain, confusion, etc.

In chronic Lyme disease, doctors prescribe additional antibiotics to combat the situation. However, in PTLDS, additional antibiotics cannot alleviate the symptoms and the symptoms take six months or more to go away. 

Is Lyme Disease Serious?

Yes, Lyme disease is a serious health condition as it is caused by the infestation of bacteria into our blood stream. The common symptoms of Lyme disease include rashes, fever, stiffness in the neck, numbness in legs and arms, tingling sensation, numbness, headache, etc.

However, if the treatment is delayed or if the disease is left untreated, one can suffer from more severe conditions like a change in heartbeats, chest pain, extreme joint and muscle pain, facial paralysis, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Furthermore, Lyme disease is curable but a certain section of the patients records long-haul effects, including memory loss, confusion, vision problem, and severe body ache

And Lyme disease can be life threatening if one does not receive proper treatment. If the infection spreads to your cardiac or nervous systems, the disease can be fatal. 

Can Your Live A Normal Life With Lyme Disease?

Yes, most people can lead a normal or full life even after being affected with Lyme disease. Proper Lyme disease treatment with antibiotics can eradicate the infection in your bloodstream within weeks or months. Thus, this treatment alleviates symptoms like joint pain, body ache, muscle pain, fever, rashes, numbness, etc.

However, developing chronic Lyme disease or long-haul effects of Lyme disease can deteriorate one’s quality of life. Health problems like muscle or joint pain, inflammation in the nervous system, facial paralysis, numbness and severe fatigue can definitely impact your life.

Overall, the long-haul or chronic symptoms of Lyme disease can affect your mobility and cognitive abilities. 

What Are The Lifelong Symptoms Of Lyme Disease?

The lifelong symptoms of Lyme disease are extensive. Fortunately, a minor section of the patients infected with this disease suffers these lifelong symptoms.

The lifelong symptoms of Lyme disease include sleeping disorders, severe fatigue, lack of concentration, memory loss, speech problems, blurry vision, joint or muscle aches, swelling in joints or muscles, etc.

Diagnosis the lifelong symptoms of Lyme disease is difficult. To put it simply, doctors can use certain diagnostic methods to detect how much damage is done in certain body parts or systems. However, it is difficult to analyze why and how Lyme disease can promote these problems.

To detect the lifelong impacts of Lyme disease on a person’s cardiac system, doctors suggest electrocardiogram or echocardiogram.

Similarly, for the examination of cerebrospinal fluid, a spinal tap is used. MRI helps to understand brain functions and neurological conditions. 

Can Lyme Disease Be Transmitted?

No, Lyme disease cannot be transmitted to another through kissing, touching or having an intercourse. However, Lyme disease can transmit from a pregnant mother to the placenta.

Lyme disease is also not contagious in nature. Transmission or contamination can only happen when a person with Lyme disease is donating blood for blood transfusion into someone else’s body or donating an organ.

Having said that, preventive measures and hygiene are very important in the prevention of Lyme disease. If you are back home from outdoor activities in bushy/grassy or tick infested areas and don’t wash your clothes or body properly, you may get easily infected.

Can You Live With Untreated Lyme Disease?

No, you cannot live with untreated Lyme disease. When the symptoms of infection start showing up, you will have fever, headache, rashes, stiffness in the neck, etc.

However, if you don’t consult a medical practitioner or leave the disease untreated, the nervous and cardiac systems of your body will be damaged.

Why Is Lyme Disease Curable?

Lyme disease is curable because there are proven and effective medicines for treatment. Antibiotics like amoxicillin, doxycycline, cefuroxime can be used for the treatment of these diseases.
Certain natural remedies like taking micronutrients and using essential oils can promote faster cure from Lyme disease. Further, there are several ongoing studies to find out more alternative methods for the treatment of this bacteria infested disease.

However, if the Lyme disease invites long-haul effects like dizziness, problems in cardiac and nervous systems, muscle and joint pain, these antibiotics cannot offer cure. Alternative methods like treatment in hyperbaric oxygen chambers, taking immunity-boosting supplements and chelation therapy may help in such conditions.

Is Lyme Disease Danger?

Yes, Lyme disease is definitely dangerous considering around 10% of the affected people develop long-haul symptoms and have to deal with a deteriorated way of living. Though the percentage looks insignificant, if calculated, you will know that around half a million residents of the USA develop the long-haul effects of this disease in a year.

To make things worse, the long-haul symptoms of Lyme disease do not go away with antibiotics that are otherwise very effective for the treatment of Lyme disease. 

Further, the symptoms of Lyme disease will be severe if not treated on time and it can cause blurry vision, loss of memory, confusion and deteriorated cognitive skill to say the least.

However, if you delay or ignore the treatment of Lyme disease, your muscles, joints, cardiac and neurological systems will be at greater risks. With time, this disease can call change of heartbeats, facial paralysis, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

So, there is always an added importance on following the preventive measures for Lyme disease. And if you have been involved in some outdoor activities in places with tick infestation and you notice some symptoms of Lyme disease, you need to consult a physician immediately.

The most common symptom of Lyme disease is circular or “bull’s-eye” rashes. But unfortunately, not all people having Lyme disease develop rashes and as those rashes are not itchy, they will go unnoticed if occurred on body parts that are not easily visible. In addition, these rashes become prominently visible on lighter skin. So, if you have a darker complexion, figuring those rashes will be difficult. 

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