What is the prognosis of Lyme disease?

Updated: Apr 05, 2021
  • Author: John O Meyerhoff, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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The prognosis for patients with Lyme disease is generally excellent when they are treated early with appropriate antibiotic regimens. However, recurrent infection is possible if the patient is again bitten by an infected tick; these infections are usually due to a different strain of the local Borrelia. [21]

Patients, especially adults, who receive late treatment or initial treatment with antibiotics other than doxycycline or amoxicillin may develop chronic musculoskeletal symptoms and difficulties with memory, concentration, and fatigue. These symptoms can be debilitating and hard to eradicate.

Some patients develop chronic arthritis that is driven by immunopathogenic mechanisms and not active infection. This condition is more prevalent among individuals with HLA-DR2, HLA-DR3, or HLA-DR4 allotypes. The arthritis is resistant to antibiotic treatment but typically responds to symptomatic treatment and shows eventual resolution. [22]

Cardiac involvement in Lyme disease is rarely chronic. However, patients with third-degree heart block often require a temporary pacemaker insertion and, on rare occasions, a permanent pacemaker insertion.

Lyme disease appears to rarely be fatal. Many of the fatal cases reported have been in patients co-infected with other tick-borne pathogens such as Ehrlichia species and B microti, and in Europe, tick-borne encephalitis. A US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of death records from 1999-2003 found that only one of 114 total records listing Lyme disease as an underlying or multiple cause of death was consistent with clinical manifestations of Lyme disease. [23] .

Extremely rare cases of neonatal death or stillbirth have been reported after pregnancies complicated by untreated or inadequately treated symptomatic maternal Lyme borreliosis. Subsequent findings from CDC studies suggest that congenital infection with B burgdorferi is unlikely and that it is not directly responsible for adverse fetal outcomes.

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