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Arthritis and Lyme Disease

How Is Lyme Disease Treated? continued...

Intravenous (IV) antibiotics may be used for more serious cases and for someone whose nervous system has been affected. Lyme disease with arthritis also can be treated with antibiotics. Most patients experience full recovery.

Patients younger than 9 years or pregnant or lactating women with Lyme disease are treated with amoxicillin or penicillin because doxycycline can stain the permanent teeth developing in young children or unborn babies. Patients allergic to penicillin are given erythromycin or related antibiotics.

Doctors prefer to treat Lyme disease patients experiencing heart symptoms with antibiotics such as Rocephin, Claforan, or penicillin given intravenously for about two weeks. If these symptoms persist or are severe enough, patients may also be treated with corticosteroids or given a temporary internal cardiac pacemaker. People with Lyme disease rarely experience long-term heart damage.

Following treatment for Lyme disease, some people still have persistent fatigue and achiness. This general malaise can take months to slowly disappear, although it generally does so spontaneously without the use of additional antibiotic therapy. There is no evidence that the Borrelia infection causes chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Although some patients with Lyme disease may develop these problems, as with other patients who get chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia, long-term antibiotics will not hasten recovery.

How Can I Prevent Getting Lyme Disease?

Fortunately, the cause of Lyme disease is known and the disease can be prevented. Essential to prevention is the avoidance of deer ticks. Although generally only about one percent of all deer ticks are infected with the Lyme disease bacterium, in some areas more than half of them harbor the microbe.

Most people with Lyme disease become infected during the late spring, summer, and early fall when immature ticks are out looking for their meal. Except in warm climates, few people are bitten by deer ticks during winter months.

Deer ticks are most often found in wooded areas and nearby grasslands, and are especially common where the two areas merge, including neighborhood yards where deer occasionally roam. Ticks do not survive long on sunny lawns, they dry out quickly and die.

Try these tips to prevent tick bites:

  • Wear long sleeves and tightly woven clothing that is light in color when walking in wooded areas so the ticks can be seen more easily.
  • Wear your shirt tucked into your pants, and your pants tucked into your socks or boots.
  • Walk in the center of trails through the woods to avoid picking up ticks from overhanging grass and brush.
  • Keep grass trimmed as short as possible.
  • Apply tick repellents with DEET to your clothing, shoes and socks before going out. Another tick repellent called permethrin, designed to be placed on the clothing can be used alone or in combination with DEET. (Although highly effective, these repellents can cause some serious side effects, particularly when high concentrations are used repeatedly on the skin. Infants and children may be especially at risk for adverse reactions.)
  • Check yourself, your family, and your pets routinely for ticks, especially after a trip outdoors.
  • Shower and shampoo your hair if you think you may have been exposed to ticks.
  • Check your clothes for ticks and wash them immediately in order to remove any ticks.

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