Lyme disease 

Introduction 

The ticks that cause Lyme disease are commonly found in woodland and heath areas 

Activity holidays

How to get fit and have fun on holiday, including ideas for activity breaks and tips on how to motivate kids

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread to humans by infected ticks. Ticks are tiny arachnids found in woodland areas that feed on the blood of mammals, including humans.  

Tick bites often go unnoticed and the tick can remain feeding for several days before dropping off. The longer the tick is in place, the higher the risk of it passing on the infection. Read more about the causes of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease can affect your skin, joints, heart and nervous system.  

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

The earliest and most common symptom of Lyme disease is a pink or red circular rash that develops around the area of the bite, three to 30 days after someone is bitten. The rash is often described as looking like a bull’s-eye on a dart board.

You may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as tiredness, headaches and muscle or joint pain.

If Lyme disease is left untreated, further symptoms may develop months or even years later and can include:

  • muscle pain
  • joint pain and swelling of the joints
  • neurological symptoms, such as temporary paralysis of the facial muscles

Lyme disease in its late stages can trigger symptoms similar to those of fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. This is known as chronic Lyme disease, although more research into this form of Lyme disease is needed.

A person with Lyme disease is not contagious because the infection can only be spread by ticks.

Read more about the symptoms of Lyme disease.

Unless in its early stages when a rash is present, diagnosing Lyme disease is often difficult as many of the symptoms are similiar to those of other conditions. If Lyme disease is suspected, blood tests may be able to confirm the diagnosis, but they often need to be carried out a few weeks after infection to reduce the risk of false-negative results.

Read more about diagnosing Lyme disease.

Diagnosed cases of Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. Your course of antibiotics will depend on the stage of your Lyme disease, but you will usually need to take them for two to four weeks.

Read more about treating Lyme disease.

How common is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infectious disease in Europe and North America. People who spend time in woodland or heath areas are more at risk of developing Lyme disease because these areas are where tick-carrying animals, such as deer and mice, live.

Public Health England estimates there are 2,000 to 3,000 cases of Lyme disease in England and Wales each year, and that about 15%-20% of cases occur while people are abroad.

Parts of the UK known to have a high population of ticks include:

  • Exmoor
  • the New Forest in Hampshire
  • the South Downs
  • parts of Wiltshire and Berkshire
  • Thetford Forest in Norfolk
  • the Lake District
  • the Yorkshire Moors
  • the Scottish Highlands

Most tick bites happen in late spring, early summer and autumn because these are the times of year when most people take part in outdoor activities, such as hiking and camping.

Read more about the causes of Lyme disease.

Preventing Lyme disease

There is currently no vaccine to prevent Lyme disease. In 2002, a vaccine was introduced in America but was later withdrawn because of concerns over side effects.

The best way of preventing Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten when you are in wooded or heath areas known to have a high tick population. The following precautions might help prevent Lyme disease:

  • Wear a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Tuck your trousers into your socks.
  • Use insect repellent.
  • Check yourself for ticks.
  • Check your children and pets for ticks.

If you do find a tick on your or your child's skin, remove it by gently gripping it as close to the skin as possible, preferably using fine-toothed tweezers, and pull steadily away from the skin.

Never use a lit cigarette end, a match head or essential oils to force the tick out.

Read more about preventing Lyme disease.

Page last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

Ratings

How helpful is this page?

Average rating

Based on 269 ratings

All ratings

Add your rating

Comments

The 27 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

Section2 said on 06 April 2014

I read that insulin can be used to cure Lyme Disease.
However the treatment also causes insulin resistance.
I have also read that people with high insulin don't develop a resistance to Lyme Disease.
The link is to high cortisol. Which is contradictory for Lyme. Insulin fights cortisol.

Inflamitory responses in the body predating Lyme like allergies, arthritis, celiac, hormone imbalance or HAPLA
groups which may contain these problems. Predispose us to chronic Lyme. So the antibodies can't be produced.
If you look at Dr David J Clark on u-tube you might find some interesting things about hormones and inflamatory responds. I have not seen them all. Taking more hormones is not the answer. But various supplements.
I have been at this for a long time it just amazes me the ignorance within the medical profession.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

LC24 said on 03 April 2014

lynnl - 03 February 2014

Sorry to hear that your husband is so poorly. Have you tried Lyme Disease Action?

http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/resources/for-the-public/

You can find some very good support groups on Facebook also xx

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Steven Hanstock said on 02 April 2014

Our daughter is suffering from what we assume is Lyme, however she can't get confirmation and hence, treatment because Public Health England (PHE) refuse to complete the necessary testing requested by her GP. Researching Lyme demonstrates an unbelievably blasé and down-right purposeful ignorance of Lyme by the NHS. There are some hundreds of people out there with similar horror stories where NHS doctors in what I can only assume to be sheer ignorance, assume the patient is suffering from a psychiatric disorder!
Its interesting that we see no responses or comments from the medical profession on this subject is it not?

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

novictim said on 28 March 2014

I refuse to be a victim of this disease. Have experienced chronic symptoms for 7 years since the disease 'came out'. Reckon I have had it for 15 years though. A couple of times a year I use Samento then change to Banderol to keep spirochetes in check and feel a benefit. I manage symptoms as best I can. It's a life changer but we are the generation they don't believe because science hasn't caught up with this clever disease. Yet. One day we may be vindicated but until then we have to share our experiences and help each other get through our daily reality. Life's for living. Listen to your body and believe in yourself. We are not crazy! Love and luck to all.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

lynnl said on 03 February 2014

I would really appreciate any comments you maybe able to offer regarding my husband's situation. He has always been very fit and healthy and we have enjoyed many years of motorcycling, particularly in USA. However, 10 years ago that all changed and he became very withdrawn, extremely sleepy and very unwell psychologically. I assumed this was due to the fact that we were in the process of moving but his GP diagnosed narcolepsy and put him on strong drugs to keep him awake. These only served to make him very robotic and he collapsed on a regular basis.
Since then he has got progressively worse, with varying diagnoses, most recently FrontoTemporal Dementia. However, only a few months before he got ill we were happily riding around the USA in Montana and Wyoming and I wonder if he could have got a tick bite and contracted Lyme Disease as the symptoms are identical to many of the cases on here. He did not notice a rash of any kind apart from on his ankles which we put down to wearing thick riding socks in the heat. He has been tested in the UK but the test came back negative which I understand is not definitive. I am not sure he would cope with going to USA to be tested but we really need to get diagnosed soon. He will be 70 in a few months and feels that his life is over. He cannot function normally in any way, he spends all his time in bed asleep, has become almost reclusive and barely interacts with his family (including me) and only eats and drinks when absolutely necessary. He has become a shadow of the man I adore and I really want my lovely husband back.
Does anybody know of a Consultant who specialises in Lyme Disease in the UK and I would very much appreciate any information anybody can give me. I have spoken to several consultants and our GP and the reaction is always that it is definitely not Lyme Disease. However, I know my husband better than anybody and I am not convinced and would like him checked out.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

gjw123 said on 09 December 2013

My dad has had Lyme disease for just over 2 years and it has taken over his life. he is no longer able to work as he spends all of his time asleep! When he first noticed the 'bulls eye' type bruise on his leg he went to the doctor and they said is was nothing. after a few weeks his symptoms got worse and so he researched it himself and printed off all the information that he could find and took it back to the doctors explaining what he believed he had. the doctor then said 'you cant possibly have Lyme's disease, I have worked here for over 20 years and have never come across this before!" well after 4 months my dad had eventually been told that he has lyme's disease and is slowly getting worse. the doctors are prescribing him with so much medication and not giving us any more options of treatment! is there any that could possibly help him to recover? please any suggestions will be much appreciated! thanks

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

staceymd said on 19 November 2013

I have Lyme Disease. Lyme mimics more than 360 different conditions, including MS, ALS, CFS, ME, Vestibular issues, Fibro etc. I have been misdiagnosed for 8 years and told that it was all in my head! After I paid to have a private test in the USA I found out that it was Lyme. You do not have to have the rash, the flu like symptoms etc to have Lyme. I never had any. It can lie dormant for up to 30 years (symptom free), it can also be spread by any arthrpods. ie: fleas, mosquitos, ticks, sand fleas. It can also be passed in utero, sexual contact, raw milk, blood transfusion and organ transplant. If you want to know the truth surrounding Lyme Disease there is a great site called Stop The Lyme Lies. They set the record straight. Normally (if you are lucky) you will be offered 2-4 weeks of antibiotics from the NHS. This will not kill Lyme. You may feel better, but Lyme spirochetes hide inside of biofilms, which antibiotics cannot penetrate. You must burst the biofilm to expose the bacteria if you are ever to get well. Lyme never travels alone. There are normally co-infections (opportunistic infections) that come with it such as Babesia, Bartonella, Mycoplasma etc.Some of these co-infections are viral, bacterial and also fungal, so antibiotics won't address these issues. So much misinformation on this horrible disease. Take it from someone that has Lyme.... Antibiotics do not work. You will have to think outside of the box to recover from this!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

LymeAndHope said on 17 October 2013

- just one thing (besides a few mistakes in the sentences) - Now I am almost without symptoms. it as a long route but I will make it. - Got my old life back! =)

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

nhsles said on 30 September 2013

I would like to add, for the benefit of others, that my symptoms included mild tingling of the skin on my right arm. I couldn't identify any other symptoms. Bite happened late May or early June, Failed diagnosis was in August, diagnosed late September. Hope this helps someone.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

nhsles said on 30 September 2013

Hi.
I have been diagnosed with Lyme disease - eventually.
I had a bite mark on the back of my upper right arm, spotted by my wife. This was when we were in the French countryside. A faint red area spread up from this over the next few weeks. On my return to the UK, I had a blood test but my GP said there was just evidence of a previous infection. (True). When we were later back in France, my upper arm and elbow became really painful if merely bumped. ( REALLY sore, tears in the eyes stuff. Reminded me of BCG reaction when I was a kid) I went to the French doctor and after blood test was diagnosed with Lyme disease. I am now taking Amoxycilline. Maybe British labs don't know how to find it. This is worrying.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Oakleaf13 said on 24 August 2013

Hi

I have the following symptoms

Numbness in both hand and feet of one to two fingers and toes
Suffered from Depression for the last 2 years or so
Major aching of muscles and joints for the past 18 months
The ache is always there never going away
Skin rashes of varying size from a few inches to over 1 foot square on back or side of torso

Been tested for Lupus as my dad has lupus but negative results from all tests for me.

I have been bitten by ticks while walking on the Lake District Fells on several occasions, but have never even worried about it.

Never even gave it a second thought.

My life has been ruined by my symptoms to the point of losing my job of 17 years.

What do I need to do to convince my doctor of my problems.

Mike

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Scot8 said on 18 June 2013

Well, after my return from holiday (Barcelona) I developed a very aggressive looking bite. In a matter of days, it developed a red ring, doubled in size, became more colourful and of course itchy. I thought to myself, I was actually bitten before I went away, and it had taken 7-14 days for this reaction to occur. I went to A&E, waited 3 hours to be treated in 15 seconds (very weak antibiotics) -happy at the time. Two days later, no change and in fact symptoms developed for the worse, very achey and stiff muscles all over. Called NHS24. I was advised, "things tend to get worse before they get better".. I booked an appointment with my local GP. I was given another course of antibiotics.. called again, and then given another course, this time of Doxycycline as well as giving a blood sample. A week into them, I am increasingly restless, poor sleeping habits have developed, my back, hip and general body muscles are achey as if I have had a heavy workout at the gym the day before and now I am starting to get random cramps.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Gavalin said on 16 May 2013

I have been suffering symptoms of this for over a year now I go fishing every week 3 times a week In woodland and over France 3-4 tines a year where I am constantly bitten to which I shrug off , a year ago now I was admitted to neurology for a week with pressure feeling behind my left eye with fever head ache and numb tingling down left arm and leg after ct MRI scans and other test I was diagnosed with physical migrane fair enough I thought but that was not the end, over next 6 months things got worse with other symptoms showing pain all over my stomach kidney area arm still leg and eye pressure admitted again to hospital ct kidneys scanned with no explanation again, now a year on I am in bits literally my left side is so weak I have started in last 3 months with severe hip pain lower back pain makeing me feel sick, stoke like feeling on left side my face palpitations shortness of breath tiredness what ever it is is ruining my life I have since been to a-e to be told they check my heart nothing else my gp 3 times to have all normal bloods done that dont show this illness as it has to be specifically looked for to which when I mention they shrug off I am 26 and slowly being broken down and stoped from digging my allotment from arthritis like pain I need help and no more know where to turn I wouldn't wish this on anyone, even when I explain that last July I killed a tick on my Bivvy floor while fishing in France and it was full of blood I am not being taken seriously.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Elizabass said on 07 December 2012

I live in Vermont, USA and just was diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease. No Allopathic medical doctor would test me for Lyme, even though I have felt progressively worse over a period of years. Two weeks ago, a friend recommended a Naturopath, and, based upon my symptoms, this is one of the first tests he ran (but there are different kinds of tests). If you can, find a Naturopath. They don't think things are "all in your head" or that you're a hypochondriac as readily as and MD.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

trishsid said on 25 November 2012

2 years ago whilst out walking i was bitten by a tick. About 10-14 days later i started to get flu like symptoms and awful joint pain. About a week after this I went to my GP, he asked me if I had been abroad and if anything had bit me, but I had forgotten about the bite so said no. He ran some blood tests which showed there was something wrong but he didn't know what. By then I had remembered the bite and a Lyme test was done which came back negative. My symptoms have continued since and I have been repeatedly back to my GP to no avail, I have been fobbed off with various things. On my last trip to the doctors I decided to see a different GP, I ended up leaving the surgery in tears as she shouted at me about why I was so convinced I had Lymes and why did I want to be ill. I said all I wanted was to feel well. I feel I have lived two lives, the one previous to this illness,where I was very active, to the one I live now, where I can hardly get my head off the pillow some days. My life has to be planned out now so that I do not do too may things that tire me out. I am now frightened to go to my GP surgery as I feel I have now been labelled a neurotic hypochondriac. Is there anyone to help as I cannot afford to go private .

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

lynnl said on 14 November 2012

I must add that neither of us were aware of a tick bite or a rash apart from a nasty rash he had on his foot which we put down to a sweat rash through wearing thick socks and motorcycle boots in very hot weather (we were on a motorcycling tour of Montana and Colorado). We did get very badly bitten in Yellowstone but assumed it was mosquitoes.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

lynnl said on 14 November 2012

I was very interested to read the above comments.
My husband and myself went to Montana in 2003. Prior to our trip he was happy, healthy and very fit and active. Within 6 months of returning home he had become very withdrawn, sleepy and confused and had episodes of collapse. His GP sent him to a sleep clinic where he was diagnosed with Narcolepsy. Over the last 8 years he has been diagnosed with Narcolepsy, Depression, Dementia with Lewy Bodies, Conversion Disorder (formerly hysteria) and possibly even early Parkinsons. He has seen a succession of Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Neurologists but they have all said that he doesn't fit the criteria for their conditions and have just said it is 'all in his mind'. He remains very sleepy and confused on a 4-weekly cycle with periods in between of complete normality. On his very sleepy and confused days (usually coinciding with full moon) he is almost comatose and unresponsive. if I try to wake him he seems very distant and not at all 'with it'. He has been tested recently for Lyme but it was negative. i have contacted the Yahoo MontanaLyme forum who have been extremely helpful and have suggested many links that may be useful in obtaining a final diagnosis and treatment.
Is there anybody who could give me the name of a doctor who is an LLMD as most GP's and consultants seem to believe that I am neurotic and my husband is manufacuring his condition to avoid having to do things he does not want to.
I am mostly certainly not neurotic. i am a very level-headed and calm woman who just wants her husband the way he was before we went to the States. i must add that we love the States and fully intend to return as soon as possible. We do not hold Montana responsible for his condition even though he probably contracted it there.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jas1957 said on 21 June 2012

Recently I have been able to use the Lyme disease map of medicine to argue that I have NOT been given the recommended treatment for Lyme disease. Previously my doctor insisted that oral antibiotics were more than adequate despite my having central nervous system involvement. I have now just finished a 21 day course of intravenous Ceftriaxone.

This map of medicine was due to be reviewed at the end of May 2012. Instead it has been removed from this site. When I asked why I was sent the following message.

"The aim of the Map of Medicine is to offer pathways that will be of
value to our users, and reflect how clinical topics are dealt with in
clinical practice. In accordance with our methodology we have analysed
key data to determine the justification for the Lyme disease pathway,
balanced against the resource requirements to maintain it and its
anticipated use. The outcome of this analysis is that we have decided
not to retain and update this topic currently. However, if circumstances
change in the future, we will be sure to republish the pathway."

In view of the woeful lack of knowledge about Lyme disease of most doctors I would argue that this guide is very much needed.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

jacqui39 said on 11 June 2012

I was diagnosed 25yrs ago as having ME-later tested privately and it was discovered it was Lyme disease. All I can say is that I am appalled at the lack of doctors knowledge about this illness. Because of their ignorance/misdiagnosis of this uillness I have ended up with severe arthritis-had 3 operations-no good-I now have to have special boots and insoles made at HRI and poditry treatment every 8wks. Two specialists recently have denied one can have chronic Lyme disease and refused antibiotic treatment. I have read of numerous patients committing suicide and I am not surprised- when one is treated as if we are just imaging all the pain etc. It is the young ones that I feel sorry for-they have had no life.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Gizz47 said on 28 May 2012

"Ticks are tiny, spider-like insects"

.... No they're not. They are arachnids, *not* insects.
6 legs = insect. 8 legs = arachnid. Come on NHS: that's primary school biology!

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

donola said on 08 September 2011

I'm going to answer my own question. I have E-mailed the 'Lyme Disease Research Database' in the States with the same question and received the following reply.

To answer your question, no. Ticks are not the only creatures who can carry Lyme bacteria. The bacteria which causes the Lyme infection has been detected in other insects such as mosquitoes that are blood sucking.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

donola said on 07 September 2011

I would like to just tadd more to my previous post and detail of my experience: I am from Salisbury , wiltshire. Which is where i do all my walking.

I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease, with the symptons of a bull-ring rash and a sore foot .
The sore foot, I had had for about 4 months ( i know this , because i thought it was a sporting injury which hampered my running). About 2 months later i was Biten badly over night in MANY places by an insect while in my bed. One of the bites became quite sore and did not disappear , around this bite developed my classic bull ring rash(7 inch diameter).

When i went to my doctors after about six weeks of the start of the rash, I told the doctor of my two ailments, and after later reading, realise I was lucky, to have such an astute examiner. Was blood tested, proscribed doxcycycline, and 3 days later my rash was disappearing and my 6 month foot injury had completely gone.

My question is, what triggered the rash , when I know that was a secondary bite ? I had obviously been affected atleast 2 months prior to that bite,.... Or is it, that that was actually my secondary infection, and that other blood sucking insects carry Lyme in smaller dosages.aswell. ...... ands that what made me react to a Non Tic- bite. ( which is undoubtly and unquestionbly the case, that it wasn't a Tic).

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

donola said on 05 September 2011

Is it absolutely the only way to get infected by a Tick bite. No ever blood sucking insect. I currently have Lyme disesase. And my rash formed around an area of Particular nasty bite ( one out of a series of about a dozen bites) I received from i presumed was a particular nasty looking insect I found on my bed on that morning.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

User506239 said on 30 November 2010

An American MD (Alan MacDonald) has discovered a link between Lyme disease and various neurological conditions including MS, Parkinsons and Dementia.

He noted that Syphillis (known at one time as the "great pretender" because it mimicked many diseases) could produce symptoms similar to MS, Dementia and Parkinsons. As Syphillis was caused by a spirochete bacterium he investigated whether MS, Parkinsons and Dementia could also be caused by a spirochete. Using DNA techniques he found the Lyme disease spirochete was present in most of the cases he examined!

This is an area that needs more research and perhaps blood samples of individuals with MS, Parkinsons and Dementia should be routinely screened using Stevenel Blue for microscopial contrast ( instead of DNA )

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

whitehorses said on 04 September 2010

It's odd that the above data says that Lymes is uncommon as I know 4 people locally who have been treated for it over the last 12 months, myself included. OK 3 of them, including myself , picked the up the infection abroad: 2 whilst walking in in the Belgium Ardennes, & 1 walking in Canada; the home grown infection was by a friend surveying a forested site in Wiltshire. I have a bad feeling that Lymes is going undiagnosed. Data from the US Surgeon General's website is far better than on this NHS site and, if you're sports or work involve involve the countryside, you need to be aware of the symptoms..

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

kayjays said on 04 August 2010

Include areas of Wales please.
Ixodes ricinus, (castor bean tick) is endemic in upland areas of Wales. Certainly at the Western end of the Brecon Beacons N.Park.
Lyme disease has been undiagnosed for many years due to the lack of information concerning the presence of this carrier vector.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

scLyme said on 10 July 2009

For those worried about Lyme Disease and tick borne infection, further information available at: http://www.lymediseaseaction.org.uk/ and check out the 16th Edition of Joseph Burrascano's paper on the subject: www.lymenet.org/BurrGuide200810.pdf
Bulls-eye rash may only to appear in less than 50% of cases.

Report this content as offensive or unsuitable

Travel health

Advice for people travelling abroad, including malaria, travel vaccinations, EHIC, travel insurance, DVT and jet lag

Find and choose services for Lyme disease