Lyme disease is a complicated infection that has the power to affect various bodily systems. The bacteria that cause Lyme infiltrate the body via the bloodstream and can camp out in joints, tissues, and other areas to evade detection by antibiotics and the body’s defenses. When Lyme manages to cause harm because of its invasion technique, people can experience debilitating symptoms that range in severity and presentation.
Some areas of the body that can be affected negatively by Lyme bacteria include the central and peripheral nervous systems. These systems are designed to connect the brain with the rest of the body and send nerve signals that play a role in bodily functions, motor skills, and much more. When Lyme disease affects the nervous system, it is referred to as Lyme neuropathy. But what is Lyme neuropathy, exactly? And how is Lyme neuropathy treated? Read on to learn more.
What is Lyme neuropathy?
Lyme neuropathy is the term used to describe the symptoms that occur when Lyme disease affects the nervous system. There are different types of Lyme neuropathy depending on the nerves or area of the nervous system involved.
Cranial nerve involvement neuropathy occurs when nerves at the back of the brain, known as cranial nerves, are infiltrated and damaged by the Lyme bacteria. Peripheral nerve involvement neuropathy is the type that develops when peripheral nerves are affected. Peripheral nerves sit outside the brain and spinal cord and aid in communication between the brain and body. This part of the nervous system helps to control bodily functions and regulate glands that produce hormones. The final type of Lyme neuropathy develops when the central nervous system is affected. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord and controls thought processes, learning, and feelings.
What does Lyme neuropathy feel like?
Lyme neuropathy will present with different symptoms depending on what part of the nervous system is being attacked. For example, people may develop facial palsy when Lyme bacteria harm the cranial nerves. Facial palsy is characterized as a loss of muscle control in the face. People that have this symptom experience facial drooping.
People who have their peripheral nerves affected will experience other symptoms, such as:
- Numbness and tingling in the extremities
- Shooting, burning, or sharp pains
- Leg and arm weakness
- Loss of hand or foot coordination
- Pain that worsens at night
The involvement of the central nervous system will cause other symptoms to develop when a person has Lyme neuropathy, including:
- Sensitivity to light
- Stiff neck
These symptoms are collectively referred to as Lyme meningitis.
Can Lyme disease neuropathy be cured?
Lyme disease can be effectively treated using antibiotics. Because of this, many symptoms, such as those that affect the nervous system, can be cured. In some cases, however, treating Lyme disease isn’t always that simple. That is especially true if someone waits to receive treatment or doesn’t get diagnosed with Lyme disease soon after they contracted it. The severity of Lyme disease also requires a different treatment approach.
Is there Lyme neuropathy treatment?
The treatment used for all cases of Lyme disease is antibiotics. Two antibiotics are used to treat Lyme: doxycycline and ceftriaxone. Using these drugs is the only way to rid the body of the bacteria causing the symptoms.
While Lyme neuropathy may seem more severe than other forms, people tend to recover after eradicating the bacteria with antibiotics. The type of antibiotics and the length of time a person must take the drug varies depending on what part of the nervous system is affected. Other factors, such as a person’s age, medical history, and allergies, are also considered.
For someone with facial palsy due to cranial nerve involvement, a 100 mg oral dose of doxycycline must be taken twice daily for two to three weeks. If a person has central or peripheral nervous system involvement, there are two treatment options: 200 mg of doxycycline orally daily or 2 grams of ceftriaxone given intravenously once per day. These antibiotic courses last two to three weeks.
How long does Lyme neuropathy last?
The length of time a person will have to deal with Lyme neuropathy symptoms tends to vary, because it typically develops in people whose condition has gone untreated for long periods. Because of this, it’s hard to determine how long a person will suffer from symptoms.
It is common for people to fully recover from Lyme neuropathy after getting the proper treatment shortly after they have finished their antibiotic course. However, in some people, neuropathy symptoms can linger six months or longer after treatment. There is no way to determine who will experience long-term symptoms and who will recover promptly after treatment.
Lyme neuropathy is not easy to deal with. It can be scary, especially when the symptoms become severe and resemble other chronic diseases. The good news is that many people with Lyme neuropathy recover soon after treatment with the right antibiotics.
Featured image by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash