Lyme Disease

Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis is an insidious infectious disease named after American city of Lyme where the disease was first described.


The disease is caused by bacterium known as borrelia burgdorferi that belongs to group of spirochetes. The bacteria lives in insects, ticks are especially its common carriers. By a tick bite, the bacterium enters human bloodstream causing the infection. Due to the way transmission Lyme disease is sometimes confused with tick-borne encephalitis. These are, however, completely different clinical conditions.


The disease exists in several possible stages. Even when untreated there is a big chance that it stops in the first or second stage.


First stage is also known as erythema chronicum migrans. The skin at the bacterium's entrance into our body (e.g. location of thick bite) turns red and a reddish stain emerges that slowly spreads to surrounding area while its center begins to fade. This stage may be followed by flu-like symptoms (fatigue, fever). This stage is the best time when a doctor should be attended. It is easier to state the diagnosis and effective treatment can be administered to prevent occurrence of later stages.


In later stages it is a challenge to confirm correct diagnosis because of very variable symptoms depending on affected organs or tissues such as:


Borrelia causes inflammation of joints (arthritis). Typically a single knee joint is affected, it swells, turns red and is painful. There are periods of calm between arthritis attacks.


Heart muscle inflammation may appear, also known as myocarditis. This condition can be quit dangerous and can be followed by symptoms o heart failure or by emergence of cardiac arrhythmias.

Nervous system

It can cause meningitis, encephalitis, or peripheral nerve affection. That results in headache, fever, vomiting, sensitivity disorders, limb mobility impairment and polyneuropathic disorders. Changes of personality and various psychiatric affections have been reported as well.


In nature is it vital to prevent a tick bite by wearing long pants and carefully control your skin after returning home. If a tick is found, then remove it and after that occasionally check the affected sign to rule out formation of a red stain. There is no effective vaccination against Lyme disease!


First stage can be diagnosed quite easily from a personal history of a tick bite and by erythema chronicum migrans on the skin. Later stages can be diagnosed by combining symptoms and positive serological findings of antibacterial antibodies in blood samples. It must be however stated that these findings are often falsely positive and their interpretation must be done by a skilled doctor.


Antibiotics are used with great effect in first stage, there is especially an experience with antibiotics from tetracycline group (that is, however, not possible to use by children). Of course, the sooner they treatment stars, the better. It is very difficult to influence later stages of the disease and those often lead to lifelong complications.

Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources