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Lyme Disease


What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria. The bacteria are commonly found in mice, squirrels, and deer. Insects called deer or black-legged ticks feed on the blood of the infected animal. The infected tick passes the bacteria to you when it bites you.

What increases my risk for Lyme disease?

  • You are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 55 and 70.
  • You work in a wooded area or area with heavy brush.
  • You travel to or live in areas where ticks are common.
  • You hunt, camp, or fish in a wooded area.

What are the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease?

  • A red rash that looks like a target or bull's eye
  • Fever or sore throat
  • Weakness and tiredness
  • Headache or muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal pain, nausea, or diarrhea

How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

Your caregiver will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell him if you live or work in a wooded area or have been hunting or camping. He will check your skin for ticks. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to check for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
  • Lumbar puncture: This procedure is also called a spinal tap. Caregivers will give you medicine to numb a small area of your lower back. They will insert a needle and remove fluid from around your spinal cord. The fluid will be sent to a lab to be tested for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.
  • Synovial fluid test: Synovial fluid surrounds your joints. Caregivers will give you medicine to numb a small area over your joint. They will insert a needle and remove fluid from the space around your joint. The fluid will be sent to a lab to be tested for the bacteria that cause Lyme disease.

How is Lyme disease treated?

  • Antibiotics: This medicine will help fight or prevent an infection caused by bacteria.
  • NSAIDs: These medicines decrease swelling, pain, and fever. NSAIDs are available without a doctor's order. Ask your caregiver which medicine is right for you. Ask how much to take and when to take it. Take as directed. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding and kidney problems if not taken correctly.

What are the risks of Lyme disease?

  • You may develop long-term symptoms and need treatment for months or years. Your symptoms may also go away and return at a later time, and you may need treatment again. You may have joint pain and swelling that is constant, or comes and goes. You may have trouble moving your joints.
  • Without treatment, the bacteria can spread to other areas of your body. Your symptoms may get worse. You may have swelling in your heart and the area around it. You may develop a heart block. This is when the upper and lower chambers of your heart do not work together as they usually do. You may begin to have abnormal heartbeats. You may develop problems with your nerves and brain function. This can cause pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms or legs. You may have mood changes and trouble thinking clearly. You may develop a facial palsy. This is when part of your face is paralyzed and may droop.

How can I help prevent Lyme disease?

  • Check your skin for ticks: Check your body and scalp for ticks after outdoor activities. Remove a tick from your skin with tweezers and clean the area with soap and water. Watch the area for a rash over the next month.
  • Protect your skin: Wear protective clothing in areas where there may be ticks. Wear long sleeves and cover your ankles. Wear light-colored clothing so you can see if a tick is on your clothes. Spray your clothing and exposed skin with a tick repellant that contains DEET.
  • Protect your home: Remove dead leaves and brush from around your home and yard. Make a border between your grass and the woods near your home if you live in a wooded area. Wood chips and gravel can be used to make the border. Spray tick repellant on the grass and tree areas where you live.

Where can I find more information?

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    1600 Clifton Road
    Atlanta , GA 30333
    Phone: 1- 800 - 232-4636
    Web Address:

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • Your rash grows or spreads to other areas of your body.
  • You suddenly have trouble falling or staying asleep.
  • You have new or worsening pain and swelling in your joints.
  • You have new or worsening weakness and muscle pain.
  • You have a new tick bite.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your heart is jumping and you feel dizzy.
  • You have a headache and a stiff neck.
  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You have trouble concentrating or thinking clearly.
  • You suddenly cannot talk or see well, or you have trouble moving an area of your body.
  • You have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, or you have trouble walking.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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