Treatments and drugsBy Mayo Clinic staff
Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. In general, recovery will be quicker and more complete the sooner treatment begins.
- Oral antibiotics. These are the standard treatment for early-stage Lyme disease. These usually include doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or amoxicillin or cefuroxime for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women. A 14- to 21-day course of antibiotics is usually recommended, but some studies suggest that courses lasting 10 to 14 days are equally effective.
- Intravenous antibiotics. If the disease involves the central nervous system, your doctor may recommend treatment with an intravenous antibiotic for 14 to 28 days. This is effective in eliminating infection, although it may take some time to recover from your symptoms. Intravenous antibiotics can cause various side effects, including a lower white blood cell count, mild to severe diarrhea, or colonization or infection with other antibiotic resistant organisms unrelated to Lyme.
After treatment, a small number of people still experience some symptoms, such as muscle aches and fatigue. The cause of these continuing symptoms is unknown, and treating with more antibiotics doesn't help. Some experts believe that certain people who get Lyme disease are predisposed to develop an autoimmune response that contributes to their symptoms. More research is needed.
The Food and Drug Administration warns against the use of bismacine, an injectable compound prescribed by some alternative medicine practitioners to treat Lyme disease. Bismacine, also known as chromacine, contains high levels of the metal bismuth. Although bismuth is safely used in some oral medications for stomach ulcers, it's not approved for use in injectable form or as a treatment for Lyme disease. Bismacine can cause bismuth poisoning, which may lead to heart and kidney failure.
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- Bismacine/chromacine. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalProducts/ucm150503.htm. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Wormser GP, et al. The clinical assessment, treatment and prevention of Lyme disease, human granulocytic anaplasmosis and babesiosis: Clinical practice guidelines by the Infectious Disease Society of America. Clinical Infectious Diseases. 2006;43:1089.
- Lyme disease. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/lymeDisease/understanding/Pages/intro.aspx. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online.18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=9102369. Accessed June 19, 2012.