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Early Disseminated Lyme Disease

Written by Ada’s Medical Knowledge Team

Updated on

What is early disseminated lyme disease?

Early disseminated Lyme disease, also known as Lyme borreliosis, is caused by an infection with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria is spread through tick bites. People who work outside or spend time in woodland areas are most likely to be affected. If not diagnosed or left untreated, the bacteria can spread throughout the body from the site of the tick bite. The medical term for the first stage of bacterial spread is early disseminated Lyme disease. The symptoms of this stage of Lyme disease include muscle weakness, breathlessness, memory problems and a skin rash. This condition can be treated with antibiotics and most people recover well, although symptoms may persist for some time following treatment.


Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria are spread through tick bites. This condition can not be passed from person to person. These ticks are mostly found in wooded, rural areas throughout Europe and North America. People who work outside or who spend time in woodland or heaths are most commonly affected. Although anyone can have this condition, it tends to be slightly more common in children and older adults. It is more common in late spring, early summer and autumn. Lyme disease tends to first cause symptoms in one location, which is called localized Lyme disease, and then spreads slowly through the body, which is called disseminated Lyme disease.


The early symptoms of Lyme disease are flu-like, with fever, chills, tiredness, muscle aches, joint pain, and a 'bull's eye' rash. Later symptoms can be different from person to person, but include pain and swelling in the joints, numbness, weakness of the facial muscles, memory problems, shortness of breath and headaches.


The diagnosis is usually based on two aspects: the appearance of the 'bull's eye' rash and a history of travel or activities in areas where ticks are present (e.g. work or travel in wooded areas of North America). Once Lyme disease has spread, it can be difficult to diagnose, as only some people remember having a 'bull's eye' rash. In this situation, Lyme disease is usually diagnosed with a blood test.


Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics. Simple pain relief, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, might be helpful for sore muscles and joints. Close monitoring of the success of the therapy is obligatory.


Avoiding tick bites with insect repellents and protective clothing is important to prevent this condition, especially in areas which are known to have Lyme disease. There is no vaccination available.

Other names for early disseminated Lyme disease

  • Stage 2 Lyme borreliosis
  • Early disseminated Lyme borreliosis

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