Lyme Disease

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Named after the town in Connecticut where it was first recognized, Lyme disease is an infection you get from the bite of a deer tick (also called a blacklegged tick), if the tick carries the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. Lyme disease is the most common tickborne infectious disease in the United States, but 95 percent of all cases have occurred in only nine states, mostly in the Northeast and upper Midwest.

To infect you, the tick must be attached to you for 36 to 48 hours or more. So if you remove the tick before then, in most cases, you won’t get Lyme disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that if you develop a rash or fever within several weeks after removing a tick, you should see your health care provider and tell the provider about the tick bite.

Symptoms of Lyme disease may include fever, headache, fatigue, and a rash that sometimes looks like a bull’s eye.

Generally, a short course of antibiotics cures Lyme disease, although people with complicated cases need antibiotics for 3 to 4 weeks. If not properly treated with antibiotics, Lyme can cause a wide range of potentially serious symptoms.

Beware of products offering “natural” or other alternative “cures” for Lyme disease, such as oxygen, energy, nutritional, or herbal therapy. They haven’t been shown to be effective, and they may be dangerous. Antibiotics are the only known effective treatment for Lyme disease.

Patients treated with antibiotics in the early stages of Lyme disease usually recover quickly and completely. However, some people have lingering symptoms of fatigue, pain, or joint and muscle aches. These symptoms cannot be cured by additional antibiotic treatment, but they generally improve on their own over time. If you have been treated for Lyme disease but you still don’t feel well, consult your health care provider.

Learn more about Lyme disease on the CDC website.

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NCCIH has provided this material for your information. It is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider(s). We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with your health care provider. The mention of any product, service, or therapy is not an endorsement by NCCIH.

Last Updated: March 2019