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Lyme Disease - Medications

Antibiotics are the main treatment for Lyme disease. The first course of antibiotics almost always cures the infection. But if symptoms continue, more evaluation may be needed.

The type of antibiotic prescribed, the amount, and whether the medicine is taken orally, as an injection, or through a vein (intravenous, or IV) depends on how bad your symptoms are and how long you've had Lyme disease.

  • Oral antibiotics are prescribed for early Lyme disease. They are also usually prescribed first for chronic Lyme arthritis.
  • Intravenous (IV) antibiotics are used if:
    • Your nervous system is affected by late Lyme disease and you have bad headaches, neck pain, weakness or numbness in the arms or legs, or problems with thinking or memory.
    • Lyme disease bacteria or antibodies against the bacteria have been found in your spinal fluid.
  • Either oral or intravenous antibiotics may be used to treat late Lyme disease symptoms.

Should you use antibiotics?

Different antibiotics may be used to treat children and adults. The decision to take medicines for Lyme disease may be based on one or more of these factors:

  • You have symptoms of Lyme disease, especially the red, circular rash camera.gif, and a history of exposure to ticks in geographic regions where Lyme disease is known to occur.
  • Blood tests show that you have antibodies to the Lyme disease bacteria in your blood, spinal fluid, or joint fluid.
  • You are pregnant or breast-feeding and are bitten by a tick.

In rare instances, Lyme disease symptoms may not go away even after antibiotic treatment has cured the infection. There are a number of possible reasons why symptoms may take longer to improve:

  • Tissue or nerve damage caused by untreated Lyme disease may be severe or even irreversible.
  • You may not actually have Lyme disease or may have another illness at the same time with symptoms that don't respond to antibiotic treatment. Lyme disease may trigger fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. Or you may be misdiagnosed as having Lyme disease when you really have a chronic fatigue condition.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: August 21, 2012
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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