Lyme Disease, Neurological Complications of

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The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a leading federal funder of research on Lyme disease

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterial organism that is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Most people with Lyme disease develop a characteristic skin rash around the area of the bite that may look similar to a "bull's eye" (a red ring with a clear center).

The first stage of Lyme disease may begin with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pain from seven to 14 days, or in some cases 30 days, following a bite.

Neurological complications most often occur in the second stage of Lyme disease and include:

  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Weakness
  • Bell's palsy (temporary paralysis or weakness on one side of the face)
  • Visual disturbances
  • Meningitis-like symptoms such as fever, stiff neck, and severe headache

Other neurological problems, which may not appear for weeks, months, or years after a bite, include decreased concentration, memory and sleep disorders, and nerve damage in the arms and legs.

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics under the supervision of a physician. Many individuals with Lyme disease respond well to antibiotics. Varying degrees of permanent joint or nervous system damage may develop in individuals with late-stage Lyme disease.

Learn About Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

How can I or a loved one help improve care for people with Lyme disease?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about Lyme disease and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with Lyme disease at

Where can I find more information about Lyme disease?

The following organizations may provide more information and resources:

Arthritis Foundation
Phone: 800-283-7800

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Phone: 800-232-4636

Lyme Disease Foundation
Phone: 860-454-8909

Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.