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Lyme disease - what to ask your doctor

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is spread through the bite of one of several types of ticks. The disease can cause symptoms including bull's eye rash, chills, fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle pain.

Below are some questions you may want to ask your health care provider about Lyme disease.

Questions

Where on my body am I most likely to get a tick bite?

  • How large are ticks and tick bites? If I have a tick bite, will I always get Lyme disease?
  • Can I get Lyme disease even if I never noticed a tick bite on my body?
  • What can I do to prevent getting tick bites when I am in a wooded or grassy area?
  • In what areas of the US am I more likely to get a tick bite or Lyme disease? At what time of the year is the risk higher?
  • Should I remove a tick if I find one on my body? What is the proper way to remove a tick? Should I save the tick?

If I get Lyme disease from a tick bite, what symptoms will I have?

  • Will I always have symptoms soon after getting Lyme disease (early or primary Lyme disease)? Will these symptoms get better if I am treated with antibiotics?
  • If I do not get symptoms right away, can I get symptoms later? How much later? Are these symptoms the same as the early symptoms? Will these symptoms get better if I am treated with antibiotics?
  • If I am treated for Lyme disease, will I ever have symptoms again? If I do, will these symptoms get better if I am treated with antibiotics?

How can my doctor diagnose me with Lyme disease? Can I be diagnosed even if I do not remember having a tick bite?

What are the antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease? How long do I need to take them? What are the side effects?

Will I have a full recovery from my Lyme disease symptoms?

Alternative Names

What to ask your doctor about Lyme disease; Lyme borreliosis - questions; Bannwarth syndrome - questions

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Lyme disease. www.cdc.gov/lyme. Updated December 16, 2019. Accessed July 13, 2020.

Steere AC. Lyme disease (Lyme Borreliosis) due to Borrelia burgdorferi. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 241.

Wormser GP. Lyme disease. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 305.

Review Date 7/13/2020

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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