Early Disseminated Lyme Disease

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Early disseminated Lyme disease is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium and it is an inflammatory disease. This disease is passed when an infected tick bites a person. It can take days to month after the bite for this disease to develop. This infection then spreads through the bloodstream or lymph system. This type of Lyme disease may also be referred to as stage 2 Lyme disease, secondary Lyme disease, or Bannwarth syndrome.


Some patients in this stage of the disease do not have a history of symptoms prior to this stage. This disease can affect the central nervous system and the heart. Symptoms may be intermittent and may go away after days, weeks, or months. Symptoms include:

Other symptoms may also occur, such as:

  • Abnormal sensitivity to light
  • Decreased consciousness
  • Dysfunctional movement
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Speech impairment
  • Confusion
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Facial paralysis
  • Loss of muscle feeling and function
  • Numbness and tingling


The doctor will begin diagnosing early disseminated Lyme disease by performing a physical exam. He or she will also perform a neurological exam. He or she will also listen to how the heart sounds. Patients may be asked to perform certain movements so the doctor can evaluate their nerves. A chest x-ray may be done to get a look at the heart and the surrounding structures. An ECG, or electrocardiogram, may be performed to record the heart’s electrical activity. An echocardiogram may be done to create a moving image of the heart.

An ELISA blood test may be done to look for the presence of specific substances associated with this disease. The cerebrospinal fluid may be analyzed for any changes or substances associated with this disease or to rule out similar conditions. An MRI of the brain may be done to look for any changes that may be characteristic of this disease or to rule out similar conditions. A western blot test may be performed to determine if there are any antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi present.


Treatment focuses on using antibiotics to eliminate the infection. Patients may take antibiotics for as long as 28 days, and in some cases, a second round may be administered. Doxycycline, cefuroxime, amoxicillin, and ceftriaxone are the most commonly prescribed antibiotics. Most patients who are experiencing complications related to the nervous system will have the antibiotics administered intravenously. Those who are experiencing arthritis that does not improve with oral medications may also have their antibiotics administered intravenously.


University of Maryland Medical Center. (2009). Lyme Disease – Early Disseminated Overview. Retrieved on November 22, 2010 from the University of Maryland Medical Center: https://www.umm.edu/ency/article/000625.htm

MedlinePlus. (2010). Lyme Disease – Early Disseminated. Retrieved on November 22, 2010 from MedlinePlus: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000625.htm