Lyme treatment is complex. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Lyme disease, this can be a frustrating and confusing time.
There are various stages of Lyme infection, and treatments differ according to the stage of infection. It’s important to be aware of the various treatment options so that you can help your doctor determine what’s right for you.
The truth about antibiotic treatments
Until recently, many doctors in Canada tended to prescribe only one round of antibiotics, irrespective of the stage of infection. However, current research suggests that a single course of antibiotics is often insufficient for treating Lyme disease, especially if the infection has been untreated for several months.
Three important discoveries have been made:
- Antibiotics are most effective in the early stage of Lyme treatment.
- Longer term treatment with antibiotics may be required.
- Co-infections can result in a more complicated case of Lyme disease.
Oral antibiotics are commonly used to treat Lyme in the early stages. Doctors often prescribe antibiotics over a 2-3 week period which may be insufficient. Treating this disease effectively at this early stage has the best patient outcome, and importantly the risk to benefit weighs heavily on the side of effective treatment.
If you’re still experiencing symptoms after the first round of treatment, your doctor may prescribe additional oral antibiotics or move directly to intravenous medication.
Lyme disease can remain dormant for weeks, months or even years. When symptoms do eventually develop, they can be severe and patients often need aggressive treatment.
Intravenous treatment is often required to treat late-stage infection. Late-stage treatment can last many months as seen in other infections as well. In addition to intravenous antibiotics, patients being treated for late-stage Lyme disease, often receive supportive therapies. For example; physical therapy, antidepressants, anti-inflamatories, stomach acid control. Steroids are not recommended.
During this treatment, a patient is injected intramuscularly with antibiotics. The slow and sustained release over time means that some people who cannot tolerate oral antibiotics can see remarkable recovery.
Pulse and combination therapy
Pulse and Combination Therapy involves a careful combination of antibiotic treatments that coincide with symptom flare-ups. This is a relatively new treatment option for Lyme disease, but it seems to be effective in certain cases.
Chronic Lyme disease
Chronic Lyme Disease causes continuing, low-grade symptom flare-ups, and can occur when a patient has been infected for more than a year before seeking treatment or when steroids have been prescribed prior to the Lyme diagnosis.
When a patient is diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, doctors work to develop an extended treatment plan. Treating Chronic Lyme can last months, years or even longer.