Late Lyme Disease

What is late Lyme disease?

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 late symptoms and complication of Lyme disease develop 6 to 36 months after the original infection. This disease may include joint pain, skin changes or neurologic complications. Late Lyme disease 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. Late Lyme disease usually develops 6 to 36 months after the infectious tick bite.


The symptoms of late Lyme disease differ from the earlier stages. In North America, joint pain and swelling is very common. In Europe, skin changes are more common. These skin changes consist of swelling, redness and thinning of the skin on usually one hand or one foot. Although some people may develop neurological problems, these are rare, but may include difficulty concentrating, confusion, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.


The diagnosis of late-stage Lyme disease can be very difficult, and is usually made by a specialist in infectious diseases. The diagnosis can be confirmed if the affected person has had the characteristic 'bull's eye' rash and has lived or worked in areas where ticks are present, or with a blood test.


Late Lyme disease often requires antibiotic treatment over a period of up to 28 days. Sometimes these antibiotics must be administered intravenously (through a drip).


Avoiding tick bites by using 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 late Lyme disease

  • late Lyme disease
  • late Lyme borreliosis
  • stage 3 Lyme borreliosis
  • arthritic borreliosis