What is Lyme Arthritis?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2016
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Lyme arthritis is joint disease caused by infection with bacteria in the Borrelia genus. People infected with these bacteria are sometimes said to have Lyme disease. Treatment for Lyme arthritis includes administration of antibiotics to kill the bacteria, paired with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and make the patient more comfortable. Research has suggested that some people develop what is known as chronic Lyme disease, in which the disease cyclically recurs instead of being eliminated with treatment.

These bacteria are introduced to the body through bites from ticks. The disease is named for Lyme, Connecticut, where the first cluster of cases was observed. Joint pain, swelling, inflammation, and irritation is a hallmark of Lyme disease. Lyme arthritis can be seen in people of any age. If the bacteria persist untreated in the body, other symptoms can develop as well, including symptoms involving the central nervous system in some cases; people with Lyme disease may feel fatigued, experience nerve pain, and develop skin rashes.


When arthritis is identified in someone who is not otherwise at risk for arthritis, Lyme arthritis can be considered as a potential cause. If the person has been in an area where Lyme disease is present and has been exposed to ticks, these can be strong indicators that the patient may have Lyme arthritis. Diagnostic tests including tests on the blood and joint fluid can be used to check for the presence of the bacterium to confirm the diagnosis. Specialists who are used to seeing Lyme cases may be more adept at identifying the disease in the early stages.

Antibiotics are the first line of defense in Lyme arthritis treatment. They are administered to kill the disease-causing organisms behind the inflammation. If a patient's joint are unusually painful or swollen, drugs can be prescribed to treat the pain and swelling so that the patient will be more comfortable. Some patients also benefit from warm compresses, rest, and plenty of fluids.

In patients where Lyme disease has become recurring, pain in the joints can be an early warning sign that another bout of the disease is about to onset. Lyme arthritis can eventually cause severe damage to the joints because they can become worn down with inflammation. Consequently the patient may experience pain, stiffness, and a reduction in range of motion related to the joint damage. Gentle stretching can help patients preserve their range of motion and keep the joints as healthy as possible.


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Post 3

@Soulfox -- true, but there are some concerns about the environmental impact of some of those insect repellants. If you fall into the "worried about the environment" camp, find one that is considered safe to Mother Nature.

Those products are easily identified. Manufacturers love bragging about "green" products these days and will boast about how great their products are right on the labels.

Post 2

@Terrificli -- that is a hard question to answer, but there are some steps you can take.

One of the most important things you can do is to make sure your pets are protected from ticks during the seasons where those are a problem (any time but winter in most of the U.S.) by using flea colors, drops or other items that cut down on them. Even if you never leave your house, you could be exposed to ticks if you have inside pets that spend any amount of time outdoors.

There are also some very good insect repellant products available that you can apply before going outside. A lot of people figure those products are good at warding off the hated mosquito, but most of them protect people from more pests than that. Just read the label.

Post 1

The good news is that getting Lyme disease is very rare. It is quite common for people to get bitten by a tick from time to time but developing the painful Lyme disease doesn't happen all that often.

Still, what are some good ways to avoid the ticks that lead to Lyme disease?

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