What Happens If Lyme Disease Is Left Untreated?

Lyme disease primarily spreads through the bite of black-legged ticks infected with the bacterium Borrelia Burgdorferi. While early detection and treatment are essential for a full recovery, what happens if Lyme disease goes untreated? With 20,000-30,000 Lyme disease cases reported yearly, it's a concern worth asking about.

We can answer the question as experts in Lyme disease at Fairfield Family Health. 

Reasons to consider treatment

Let's look at eight potentially serious consequences of not getting treatment for Lyme disease:

1. Progression of symptoms

When Lyme disease is left untreated, the initial symptoms may worsen over time. The characteristic red bull's-eye rash (erythema migrans) that often accompanies the early stages of infection may fade, but the infection can continue to spread throughout your body.

2. Dissemination of localized infection

Lyme disease usually begins as a localized infection, affecting your skin and nearby tissues. However, without treatment, the bacteria can spread to other parts of your body through your bloodstream, leading to disseminated Lyme disease, affecting your joints, heart, nervous system, and more.

3. Arthritis and joint pain

One of the most common long-term consequences of untreated Lyme disease is the development of Lyme arthritis. This condition causes painful, swollen joints, often in your knees. The joint pain can become chronic and debilitating, significantly impacting your quality of life.

4. Neurological complications

Lyme disease can affect your nervous system, leading to neurological complications, such as facial nerve palsy, meningitis, and cognitive problems. These symptoms can range from mild to severe and may persist for months or even years if the infection remains untreated.

5. Heart problems

Some individuals with untreated Lyme disease can develop heart-related issues, such as heart muscle inflammation (myocarditis) or irregular heart rhythms (arrhythmias). These complications can be life-threatening.

6. Chronic symptoms

Untreated Lyme disease can result in a condition known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS). You may experience symptoms like fatigue, joint pain, and cognitive difficulties even after receiving treatment. The exact cause of PTLDS isn't fully understood, but it underscores the importance of early intervention.

7. Decreased quality of life

When Lyme disease is left untreated and advances to its more severe stages, it can significantly reduce your quality of life. Chronic pain, fatigue, cognitive impairment, and other symptoms can make daily activities challenging and affect overall well-being.

8. Difficult diagnosis

As Lyme disease progresses and affects various organs and systems, it becomes more challenging to diagnose and treat effectively. This can lead to a delay in getting the appropriate medical care.

Not everyone with Lyme disease experiences severe complications if left untreated. The progression of the disease can vary from person to person, and some individuals may have milder or more transient symptoms. However, the potential consequences of untreated Lyme disease underscore the importance of early diagnosis and prompt treatment.

Prevention for Lyme disease

Preventing Lyme disease is equally important. Taking precautions when spending time in tick-prone areas, such as wearing long sleeves and pants, using insect repellent, and performing tick checks, can help reduce the risk of infection.

If you suspect you may have Lyme disease or have been bitten by a tick, seek medical attention from our expert team promptly to receive appropriate care and guidance. Book an appointment with our expert team today to get the care you deserve. We’re here for you.

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