Healthy Living

How is Lyme Disease Treated?

How is Lyme Disease Treated?

Key Takeaways

  • Lyme disease is a relatively new disease, being discovered in 1981 by Willy Burgdorfer.
  • Lyme disease is primarily treated with antibiotics.
  • Doxycycline is not recommended for children under 8-years-old.

Lyme disease is a relatively new disease, being discovered in 1981 by Willy Burgdorfer, which is a fairly short time in the medical sector. Therefore, it is still widely unknown and many groups still have varying opinions about the ideal treatment strategies.

Controversy in Lyme disease treatment strategies

On one hand, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) looks at Lyme disease as a ‘hard to catch and easy to cure’ condition. They recommend treating the infection with a short course of antibiotics, believing that the infection can’t persist in the body after the antibiotics are taken for a while. It is also important to remember this is the same group that doesn’t believe there is chronic Lyme disease.

On the other hand, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) thinks that Lyme disease is fairly difficult to diagnose and even to treat. Because of this, they believe it is often the cause of persistent infections in many patients. As for treatment, ILADS recommends treatment that is tailored to the specific patient based on their symptoms, presence of other infections and how well they respond to antibiotics.

The best way is to never underestimate a disease, after all, you wouldn’t want to regret ignoring an infection later. Despite the conflict in the treatment methods, there is no doubt about the seriousness of Lyme disease and the devastating effects it can have when ignored. 

Antibiotics

Just like other bacterial infections, Lyme disease is primarily treated with antibiotics. At the early stages of the disease, oral antibiotics are often recommended, and drugs like doxycycline are often prescribed. Doxycycline is not recommended for children under 8-years-old and also for pregnant women. Amoxicillin, cefuroxime or azithromycin may be prescribed instead.

If the infection is not identified early and develops into the late stages, antibiotics may be applied intravenously. This is when neurological symptoms like those of meningitis or encephalitis are evident. Ceftriaxone, cefotaxime, and also doxycycline are used in these cases.

The treatment period will depend on the severity of the infection and will last anywhere from one to four weeks. It is not recommended to continue administering antibiotics after this period because there is no evidence that the medication will still be effective.

Relapses or failure of the treatment to take effect are common when the treatment is started too late. However, when detected early, this is less likely and the infection is more likely to be eradicated.

Like all other medication, there are side effects to be expected. The more powerful antibiotics will often have more side effects than the mild ones, and the choice should depend on whether the risks outweigh the benefits. However, you won’t get the benefit of choice when the infection has already progressed to the late stages.

Antibiotics also wipe out bacteria in the stomach and intestines that are useful for digestion, whose absence can cause various health problems. To avoid this, probiotics will be recommended that accompany the antibiotics, maintaining a healthy balance of gut bacteria.