Conditions

Caring for Early and Late Stage Lyme Disease

Source: Mayo Clinic
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Treatment for Lyme disease has been surrounded by controversy. Different medical organizations have presented standards of care that are drastically different, and even diagnostic guidelines vary. In fact, science can’t even agree on whether the disease is merely an acute condition easily cured with antibiotics or whether it can produce a long-lasting infection that is difficult to treat.

Early Stage Lyme Disease

Early stage Lyme disease is the only form of the disease recognized by the IDSA (Infectious Diseases Society of America). This form of Lyme disease presents with a rash that’s often bullseye shaped. 

Late/Chronic Lyme Disease

Many health organizations don’t believe that chronic Lyme disease is a clinical possibility. However, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) says differently. Late-Stage Lyme disease, or Chronic Lyme disease, occurs when symptoms of the disease persist after the initial antibiotics treatment that is intended to kill the infection. Chronic Lyme disease can have drastic negative effects on quality of life.


The debate surrounding Chronic Lyme disease in clinical settings exists mostly because the diagnostic tests for the disease can’t determine the difference between an active infection and an infection that has been eradicated. ILADS doctors, who ascribe to the Chronic Lyme theory, believe that the persistent and serious symptoms should be the indicator of infection, rather than the admittedly faulty testing methods.

Standards of Care

The IDSA standard of care for early stage Lyme disease requires a simple, short course of common oral antibiotics like doxycycline or amoxicillin. Physicians who only acknowledge acute Lyme infections insist that the spirochetes that cause Lyme can’t live in the body once these antibiotics have been used.


ILADS standard of care include the preemptively treatment a tick bite that is considered high risk with a round of antibiotics, even without the presence of the traditionally recognized Lyme rash. They may also prescribe a longer course of antibiotics in order to be sure to keep lasting infection from occurring.


Late-Stage Lyme requires a more comprehensive approach, taking into account each individual case. There is currently no specific guidelines for fighting Chronic Lyme, instead counting on physicians to take into account the patient’s reaction to treatment, side effects, and other factors. Chronic Lyme doctors recognize that there is no fail-safe way to treat the disease with a guarantee of success and that some cases persist despite various courses of treatment. They also take care to watch out for other issues that arise with Lyme disease, including infections that occur as a result of a weakened immune system and hormonal changes the disease may cause.

In Either Case

Regardless of early/late stage beliefs, doctors can agree on the fact that treating Lyme disease quickly can help avoid further complications. It’s also important, regardless of the antibiotics used to treat infection, that antibiotic side effects are taken into account.