Using antibiotics appropriately, your health care provider can effectively treat your Lyme disease. In general, the sooner you begin treatment following infection, the quicker and more complete your recovery.
Antibiotics such as doxycycline, cefuroxime axetil, or amoxicillin, taken orally for a few weeks, can speed the healing of the EM rash and usually prevent subsequent symptoms such as arthritis or neurologic problems. Doxycycline also will effectively treat most other tickborne diseases.
When Lyme disease occurs in children younger than 9 years, or in pregnant or breast-feeding women, they usually are treated with amoxicillin, cefuroxime axetil, or penicillin because doxycycline can stain the permanent teeth developing in young children or unborn babies.
If you have Lyme arthritis, your health care provider may treat you with oral antibiotics. If your arthritis is severe, you may be given ceftriaxone or penicillin intravenously (through a vein). To ease discomfort and to further healing, your health care provider might also give you anti-inflammatory drugs, draw fluid from your affected joints, or surgically remove the inflamed lining of those joints.
In most people, Lyme arthritis will go away within a few weeks or months following antibiotic treatment. In some, however, it can take years to disappear completely. Some people with Lyme disease who are untreated for several years may be cured of their arthritis with the proper antibiotic treatment. If the disease has persisted long enough, however, it may permanently damage the structure of the joints.
If you have neurologic symptoms, your health care provider will probably treat you with the antibiotic ceftriaxone given intravenously once a day for a month or less. Most people recover completely.
Health care providers prefer to treat people with Lyme disease who have heart symptoms with antibiotics such as ceftriaxone or penicillin given intravenously for about 2 weeks. People with Lyme disease rarely have long-term heart damage.
Following treatment for Lyme disease, you might still have muscle achiness, neurologic symptoms such as problems with memory and concentration, and fatigue.
NIH-sponsored researchers are conducting studies to determine the cause of these symptoms and how to best treat them. Studies suggest that people who suffer from chronic Lyme disease may be genetically predisposed to develop an autoimmune response that contributes to their symptoms. Researchers are now examining the significance of this finding in great detail.
Researchers are also conducting studies to find out the best length of time to give antibiotics for the various signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.
Unfortunately, a bout with Lyme disease is no guarantee that the illness will not return. The disease can strike more than once if you are reinfected with Lyme disease bacteria.