A doctor can prescribe antibiotics to cure Lyme disease. However, a person needs to receive treatment in the early stages of the infection to avoid long-term damage to the joints and nervous system.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people recover quickly and completely from Lyme disease, provided they receive treatment in the early stages of the infection.

This article discusses how doctors treat Lyme disease and how long it takes for treatment to work. It also examines the treatment regimens and if post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) is curable.

A person discussing the cure for Lyme disease with a doctor.Share on Pinterest
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To treat Lyme disease, doctors prescribe a course of antibiotics.

Antibiotics that can treat Lyme disease include:

They usually come in oral tablet form. However, intravenous antibiotics may be necessary to treat late-stage Lyme disease.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) notes that the type of antibiotic a doctor prescribes will depend on the symptoms a person is experiencing.

It can also depend on a person’s age and pregnancy status. To treat pregnant people, a doctor will prescribe ceftriaxone.

The CDC states that provided a person receives treatment in the early stages of the infection, they will usually recover quickly. A course of antibiotics for Lyme disease usually lasts 2–4 weeks.

Most people who receive treatment in the later stages of the infection will also respond well. However, some individuals may have long-term damage to their nervous systems or joints.

People may experience lingering symptoms after they finish treatment. This is called PTLDS or chronic Lyme disease.

Lingering symptoms can include:

A longer course of antibiotics will not treat these symptoms. Instead, the symptoms usually resolve over time without treatment. In some cases, they can last for more than 6 months.

The following sections outline the treatment regimens for some symptoms of Lyme disease.

The treatment regimen may change depending on a person’s:

  • age
  • medical history
  • pregnancy status
  • allergies
  • additional health conditions

Erythema migrans

The rash that develops as a result of Lyme disease is called erythema migrans.

Doctors will prescribe the following to treat erythema migrans:

AgeAntibioticsDoseTreatment duration
Adultsdoxycycline100 mg, twice daily10–14 days
amoxicillin500 mg, three times per day14 days
cefuroxime500 mg, twice daily14 days
Childrendoxycycline4.4 mg/kg, separated into 2 doses per day10–14 days
amoxicillin50 mg/kg, separated into 3 doses per day14 days
cefuroxime30 mg/kg, separated into 2 doses per day14 days

Lyme arthritis

Lyme arthritis develops when the infection enters the joint tissues, resulting in inflammation.

To treat Lyme arthritis, a doctor will prescribe oral antibiotics for 4 weeks. A person may require a second course if symptoms persist.

Lyme carditis

Lyme carditis occurs when the infection enters the tissues of the heart. This can result in heart block — disruption to the electrical signals in the heart.

According to the CDC, a doctor will prescribe the following to treat mild heart block as a result of Lyme disease:

AntibioticDoseTreatment duration
Adultsdoxycycline100 mg, twice daily14–21 days
amoxicillin500 mg, three times per day14–21 days
cefuroxime500 mg, twice daily14–21 days
Childrendoxycycline4.4 mg per day, separated into 2 doses14–21 days
amoxicillin50 mg/kg per day, separated into 3 doses14–21 days
cefuroxime30 mg/kg per day, separated into 2 doses14–21 days

Doctors will prescribe the following to treat severe heart block as a result of Lyme disease:

AntibioticDoseTreatment duration
Adultsintravenous ceftriaxone2 g once daily14–21 days
Childrenintravenous ceftriaxone50–75 mg/kg once daily14–21 days

Neurologic Lyme disease

Lyme disease can cause neurologic symptoms when the infection affects the central or peripheral nervous system. This can lead to:

  • facial palsy
  • radiculoneuropathy, which can cause numbness, tingling, pain, or weakness in the legs or arms
  • Lyme meningitis, which can cause headaches, light sensitivity, neck stiffness, and fever

According to the CDC, to treat facial palsy, a doctor will prescribe:

AntibioticDoseTreatment duration
Adultsdoxycycline100 mg, twice daily14–21 days
Childrendoxycycline4.4 mg/kg per day, separated into 2 doses14–21 days

To treat Lyme meningitis and radiculoneuropathy, a doctor will prescribe:

AgeAntibioticDoseTreatment duration
Adultsoral doxycycline200 mg per day, separated into 1 or 2 doses14–21 days
intravenous ceftriaxone2 g, once per day14–21 days
Childrenoral doxycycline4.4 mg/kg per day, separated into 1 or 2 doses14–21 days
intravenous ceftriaxone50–75 mg/kg once per day14–21 days

There is no test to prove that someone no longer has Lyme disease.

To test for Lyme disease, healthcare professionals use blood tests to check for antibodies that the body creates the fight the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.

Even when treatment for the infection is successful, the antibodies can remain. This means a person may test positive for Lyme disease for months or years after being cured.

To cure Lyme disease, doctors will prescribe a course of antibiotics. If a person receives treatment in the early stages, they will typically recover quickly and completely.

People who receive treatment in the later stages of the disease also respond well to antibiotics. However, they may develop long-term damage to the nervous system and the joints.

After treatment, a person may experience lingering symptoms. No treatment can cure these symptoms. They usually resolve without treatment, although this can sometimes take 6 months or more.

The type of antibiotic, the dose, and the duration of treatment depend on a person’s age, overall health, pregnancy status, and other medical conditions.