Early Lyme Treatment Success Stories Request
June 2, 2014 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Have any of you, or people you know, developed a rash from a tick bite, and maybe additional symptoms, treated it early, and recovered without issues? If so, how long were antibiotics taken for?

Hi all, I was bit by a tick a few weeks ago, developed a very small rash, and started hardcore antibiotic treatment 5 days after bite. The rash went away quickly, and pretty sure I never felt additional symptoms other than the rash. The rash was very small, not a bullseye rash either. I'm unsure how much longer to continue treatment. It's been 3.5 weeks so far.

The reason I'm here is because the only people on the internet discussing lyme, especially in conventional lyme discussion forums, are people with horrible chronic lyme who've needed months and years of treatment. I want to know what I should do if starting treatment early, with no symptoms.

My doctor plans to have me on 6 weeks of multiple antibiotics. I feel like this might be overdoing it. He's a lyme doctor, treats chronic lyme people, and I get the feeling is treating me as if I have chronic lyme. The CDC recommends 2-4 weeks, but I don't necessarily trust the CDC with regard to lyme, considering the controversy and politics of the disease.

Any anecdotal support for treatment of early lyme would be appreciated, whether treatment was successful or unsuccessful.
posted by frankturning to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Two years ago, I got a tick bite. No rash, and was otherwise asymptomatic. About two weeks after that I developed a very bad infection - weakness, fever, etc. They did two blood tests for lyme and one came back positive and the other inconclusive. I was put on 3-4 weeks of antibiotics and it took a week or so to get back to normal.

I've been fine since.

I was told by my doctor that if you have any symptoms at all, treating it early is key - he was prepared to use a much stronger course of antibiotics if I had more trouble. I think maybe your doctor is being a little overzealous, but then, with Lyme, it sort of pays to squash it quickly and for good.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:12 AM on June 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

You should listen to your doctors advice, and not anecdotal advice from random internet strangers.
posted by fontophilic at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

If you don't trust a lyme disease specialist doctor or the CDC, with evidence-based medicine and years of experience to back them up, why in the world would you trust random strangers on the internet?

If you question whether your doctor is treating you like a chronic vs. acute lyme patient, ask him about it. And consider the consequences of ignoring his advice:
1) take antibiotics longer than you actually needed to. Cost: some prescription copays, maybe mild side effects?
2) stop taking antibiotics too early. Cost: chronic lyme disease, which you seem to understand is not fun.

Seriously. Follow your prescribed treatment, or if you don't agree with it then talk with the doctor until you're on the same page.
posted by vytae at 11:13 AM on June 2, 2014 [12 favorites]

I one day woke up with an eye that felt weird and wouldn't close, and over the next few days I developed Bell's Palsy. Basically, it felt like half my face was frozen. Many things can cause Bell's Palsy, and one of them turns out to be Lyme Disease. It's a long story, but I almost wasn't tested for Lyme because my doctor was incompetent and I live in a state where Lyme is uncommon. But that's what I had. I never developed a rash or other symptoms of Lyme and don't really recall ever being bitten by a tick (but my memory there is hazy). I took a month's worth of antibiotics, and the Bell's Palsy slowly went away. I've thankfully had no re-occurrence of Lyme Disease. This was about 8 years ago.
posted by Leontine at 11:14 AM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

In general, it's a bad idea to stop taking antibiotics early, not just for you, but for society: When you do so, you allow for antibiotic resistant bacteria to spread. When you take the full course, although it's not fun, and you might feel better and be tempted to stop, you have a better shot of wiping everything out, completely.
posted by damayanti at 11:17 AM on June 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

You should listen to your doctor's advice.

Many people in my family have gotten Lyme disease, some more than once (about five instances I can remember off the top of my head, all from tick bites, not recurrences), all caught very early. All were treated with a rather lengthy dose of antibiotics, and all of them are fine.

But you should obviously trust your doctor and the CDC more than you should trust me!
posted by inertia at 11:22 AM on June 2, 2014

I had STARI about 10 years ago. 3 weeks of doxycycline fixed me up. If that's what you're taking, I understand not wanting to be on it longer than necessary, because the side effects of doxycycline are pretty miserable. However, you should do what your doctor says for all the reasons folks name above. "Chronic Lyme" may or not be nonsense, but acute tick-borne bacterial infections are serious things.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:32 AM on June 2, 2014

I am just finishing a course of antibiotics. I had a tick bite, watched it, and developed a small bull's eye style rash six or seven days later. I was seen right away, and the doctor took one look at it and said "Yep. We're treating it." I had no other symptoms and was told to contact the practice if I developed any. My antibiotics are for two weeks. I got the feeling that the dose would have been upped if I was symptomatic or if my blood work had come back positive.

Please don't stop taking your antibiotics without talking to your doctor.
posted by rainbaby at 11:33 AM on June 2, 2014

Best answer: I got the classic bullseye rash, was diagnosed by sight instead of bloodtest (the doctor said my rash looked exactly like the picture from her textbook), took 3 weeks of antibiotics, and was fine. But I was going to the sliding-scale low-income clinic where they were optimizing care within very rigid cost constraints, so perhaps you are getting more thorough care because you can afford more thorough care.

Also, the antibiotics made me really sick while I was on them (I couldn't get out of bed without puking), so perhaps I was on something really strong for a short period of time whereas your doctor might have put you on something milder with fewer side effects with the tradeoff being you have to take them for a longer period of time?

I would just do what your doctor says. The cost of taking "extra" antibiotics is low (just eat some pro-biotic yogurt if you're worried about your gut bacteria) whereas the cost of stopping antibiotics too soon is very high (chronic lyme disease).
posted by Jacqueline at 11:33 AM on June 2, 2014



Lyme acts up... and then goes dormant for years/decades only to arise later in debilitating neurological symptoms. Your window of opportunity to kill Lyme is now during the initial infection. If it goes dormant then you are capital-F Fucked down the line. Double vision, can't walk straight, headaches, numb/tingling. I had a coworker take 2 years off work to deal with it (had to leave the country to get the meds).

Because of this active/dormant/active/dormant/active cycle of lyme, you must take many weeks of antibiotics to make sure all of them are killed (and not just dormant).

People with chronic lyme end up taking YEARS of pills to kill it. Your 6 weeks is minimal by comparison.

If you go off them now, you will only find out 10-20 years later if that was a good decision and by then it is beyond difficult to treat. Read this article.

If I were in your position, I would take the kill it with fire approach and would appreciate the doctor being overly cautious with prescribing a longer dosage. Don't mess with Lyme.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:51 AM on June 2, 2014 [7 favorites]

My sister had it. She was treated very early on, and has not developed the disease.

You need to listen to your doctor. After actually getting a successful diagnosis, the number-1 problem is that doctors *underprescribe* antibiotics.

You're lucky.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:40 PM on June 2, 2014

Best answer: I had a small reddish rash (not typical bull's eye) after a tick bit me in October 2013. My doctor prescribed 21 days of Doxycycline 100mg twice daily. This seems to be the usual dose/length of treatment here in Germany, although I have read that some doctors prescribe twice as much, either 200mg twice daily for three weeks or 100mg twice daily for six weeks.

I was told to not stop taking the antibiotic early in order to make sure that the treatment was successful, and since lyme can become chronic, I was very diligent in taking the full course.

The doctor also told me that a test for lyme disease cannot distinguish between an acute and an old infection, so wouldn't be worth the trouble.

I did not have any symptoms except for the rash (which went away within two weeks), and I've been fine ever since.

Caveat: I don't know if there are different strains of lyme in Northern America vs Europe, so take this with a grain of salt.
posted by amf at 12:47 PM on June 2, 2014

My SO has had it three times, all caught early, all 10 days of doxycyline, all successful. Other friends and family have had this experience as well.

I understand (and fear) that undetected, untreated Lyme can turn chronic, and that it is not a well-characterized process, but it does seem fairly clear that early treatment is highly successful. The current recommendation is for one dose, at a tick-bite-only stage.

I also understand that doxycyline is the correct antibiotic, so I would be very loathe to be mixing in others in there 'just because', as I wouldn't want to develop personal resistance to those. I'd prefer them to be effective if/when I need them.
posted by Dashy at 1:15 PM on June 2, 2014

Best answer: Three success stories:

Failed to diagnose Lyme in my son for a year after he first got it. Six weeks of antibiotics cleared it up completely, and his knees were swollen such that he was on crutches.

Both my son and my ex were bitten by ticks and took antibiotics for four weeks, with no further problems.
posted by metasarah at 1:37 PM on June 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

There is controversy about chronic Lyme, but not about acute Lyme, there is no reason not to trust the CDC on this. The controversy that exists is not a government conspiracy or anything.

My favorite free online medical resource, eMedicine, suggests 10 to 14 days of doxycycline treatment for early localized or disseminated Lyme treatment. It also states: "Evidence from 3 trials suggested a lack of benefit from prolonged antibiotic treatment of what is known as post-Lyme syndrome (symptoms persisting or recurring after appropriate treatment in the absence of evidence of ongoing infection)." You can see the references linked in the article.

I think that is justification enough to ask your doctor why he recommends the longer course. As everyone else has noted, I do not think it is a good idea to self-discontinue antibiotics based on stuff you read on the internet, without consulting with a physician.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:44 PM on June 2, 2014

Best answer: A few years ago my husband developed the rash, with no other symptoms. I don't remember exactly, but he was prescribed about 10-14 days of some routine antibiotic, probably doxycycline. He's had zero problems since.
posted by kestrel251 at 7:55 PM on June 2, 2014

My husband, his brother, and parents have all had Lyme multiple times and took the typical course of antibiotics. None of them has suffered any lingering effects of the disease. In fact, in their area (upper Westchester County, New York) almost anyone who has spent time outdoors has had it, and we don't know of anyone who has any of the chronic symptoms.
posted by dumbasamuppet at 9:06 PM on June 2, 2014

Best answer: Last August I had to cut a vacation short when I discovered a rash on my thigh. I'd been having flu-like symptoms (fatigue, chills, fever as high as 104) and realized I wasn't just going to sleep it off. We lived in Hunterdon County, NJ at the time, which has one of the highest rates for reported Lyme, so it wasn't too surprising. Two weeks on doxycycline, a week of being a little more tired than usual, and nothing since!

Talk to your doctor. Your treatment seems a tad extreme, but just not taking the meds anymore may not be wise.
posted by Otter_Handler at 3:14 AM on June 3, 2014

Best answer: Lyme doesn't always manifest with clear bullseye rashes. In my case, I had blotchy rashes all over my body. It was very clearly Lyme, however, and it got fairly far along, as I had to go to three doctors to get it treated, simply because its presentation was very slightly different. (Despite every other symptom being quite obviously Lyme-related.) I took antibiotics for a good while as prescribed by the third doctor, who wasn't an idiot, and have never suffered ill effects since. I wish that I'd gotten to see a Lyme specialist like you have, and I would have followed his or her counsel.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 7:36 AM on June 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

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