Lyme Neuroborreliosis: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Lyme neuroborreliosis is a neurological condition that negatively impacts the central nervous system. This lesson will provide the reader with interesting information about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of this disorder.

Small Bite, Big Problem

David is a 37-year-old plumber who lives in Connecticut. During a recent summer weekend, David went on a long hike with his family through the woods near his home. It was a pretty hot and humid day, so David decided to wear shorts during the hike.

Three days after the hike, David was sitting on his couch, watching TV when he felt something on the back of his knee. He took a closer look and noticed a large tick that must have bitten him during his family hike. David quickly removed the tick and sat back down on the couch.

A few days later, David noticed a rash had started to form around where the tick had bitten him. Several weeks after that, David started feeling very sick. He began having severe headaches, blurred vision, confusion, and mood swings. Worried about these symptoms, David's wife rush him to the hospital where doctors put David through several tests. After evaluating all the test results, a doctor informed David that he had Lyme neuroborreliosis, which is a complication of Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a disease caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and transmitted to humans through the bites of infected ticks; it's most common in the northeast part of the U.S. The initial signs of Lyme disease include a rash and flu-like symptoms. However, sometimes Lyme disease can spread to the central nervous systems (brain, spinal cord, and nerves) which results in a condition known as Lyme neuroborreliosis.

Lyme neuroborreliosis is transmitted by ticks infected by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
tick

Symptoms

Just like with David, the initial symptoms of Lyme disease (rash, flu-like symptoms) can begin a couple days after infection. If Lyme disease progresses into Lyme neuroborreliosis, these symptoms will often begin several weeks to several months after the initial infection. The symptoms of Lyme neuroborreliosis include:

  • Cognitive decline
  • Headaches
  • Confusions
  • Dizziness
  • Vision problems
  • Muscle tremors, seizures, and weakness
  • Mood swings
  • Meningitis: inflammation of the protective covering of the brain
  • Paresthesia: tingling sensation of the skin

Due to these symptoms, a person with Lyme neuroborreliosis will often have a very difficult time performing normal day-to-day activities like going to work or school, and it might also be difficult for them to communicate properly with family and friends.

Symptoms of Lyme neuroborreliosis include mood swings, confusion, cognitive decline, headaches, and vision problems.
mood swings

Diagnosis

Initial diagnosis of Lyme neuroborreliosis can be accomplished by a medical professional looking for the various neurological symptoms described above, and definitive diagnosis can be confirmed through blood tests. During a blood test, a sample of blood will be examined under a power microscope to check for antibodies to the B. burgdorferi bacteria. Antibodies are proteins created in the blood in response to a foreign, pathogenic microorganism, and these antibodies help the body fight against diseases caused by these microorganisms. The spinal fluid can also be checked for these antibodies.

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