If a person does not receive treatment for Lyme disease, the infection may spread to the nervous system, where it may cause neurological symptoms, such as vertigo.

Infected ticks can transmit Lyme disease to humans through bites. Vertigo is a sense of movement and spinning, even while a person is still.

This article examines the connection between Lyme disease and vertigo.

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According to researchers, vertigo, as a symptom of Lyme disease, links to damage in the inner ear.

The inner ear contains important parts of the vestibular system, a sensory system that provides the brain with information about motion, balance, and equilibrium.

In a 2021 study, researchers found that people who developed vertigo as a result of Lyme disease also often experienced hearing loss and tinnitus, which is typically a ringing noise in the ear.

The researchers conclude that these symptoms suggest that Lyme disease is present in the inner ear.

Lyme disease can cause damage and inflammation to both the inner ear and the vestibulocochlear nerve.

This nerve consists of both the vestibular and cochlear nerves, which are responsible for maintaining balance and eye movements, and hearing, respectively.

As a result of dysfunction in the inner ear and vestibulocochlear nerve, a person can experience vertigo.

Although vertigo is itself a symptom, it can cause other symptoms, or may commonly occur with other symptoms.

A person with vertigo may have the sense that the space around them, or their head, is spinning or moving, even while they are still.

Other symptoms which may co-occur can include:

The symptoms of Lyme disease can vary depending on how long a person has had the disease.

Within 3–30 days of the tick bite, symptoms may include:

EM occurs in 70–80% of people with Lyme disease and begins at the site of the tick bite.

The rash typically expands gradually and reaches up to 12 inches across. While not painful, the rash may feel warm to the touch.

EM may clear as it gets bigger, which can cause it to resemble a target or bull’s-eye. Some people may experience the other symptoms of Lyme disease instead of the rash.

If a person does not receive treatment, later symptoms of Lyme disease can include:

Lyme disease may cause other balance issues. These include:

  • Ataxia: This is a neurological symptom that presents as a lack of coordination of movement and muscles and can affect a person’s ability to walk, talk, and perform other voluntary movements. Ataxia typically affects a person’s gait, and can also cause abnormal eye movements.
  • Dizziness: Although similar to vertigo, dizziness is a slightly different sensation. While vertigo causes a sense of movement, such as spinning or tilting, dizziness can cause a person to feel disoriented and woozy.

Lyme disease is not often a cause of vertigo. 10–15% of people with the disease experience neurological complications, which can lead to vertigo and other balance issues, in some people.

There are also some isolated instances of damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve in Lyme disease, which can cause vertigo.

A person with Lyme disease needs to seek an early diagnosis to prevent more severe and potentially permanent symptoms. Doctors will typically treat the disease with antibiotics.

If a tick has bitten a person, or a person suspects a tick has bitten them, they should contact a doctor. An individual should also contact a doctor if they experience symptoms of Lyme disease, as they may be unaware of a tick bite.

Anyone who experiences prolonged or repeated episodes of vertigo should contact a doctor.

A person should seek emergency medical attention if they experience vertigo in combination with other symptoms, such as weakness, chest pain, or fever, as these may indicate a severe issue.

In most people, doctors can successfully treat Lyme disease with antibiotics over a few weeks.

If a person does not receive treatment, Lyme disease can lead to severe complications, such as heart palpitations, facial palsy, arthritis, and brain inflammation. Some of these symptoms may become chronic.

Vertigo caused by Lyme disease typically responds well to antibiotic treatment and recedes with other symptoms over a few weeks.

This section answers some frequently asked questions about Lyme disease and vertigo.

Can Lyme disease cause dizzy spells?

Yes, Lyme disease can cause dizziness, vertigo, and other balance issues.

What are the top three severe symptoms of Lyme disease?

Severe symptoms of Lyme disease, which can occur if a person does not receive treatment, include:

  • severe headaches and stiffness in the neck
  • arthritis with severe swelling and joint pain
  • facial palsy

Can Lyme disease cause ear issues?

Yes, Lyme disease can cause damage to the inner ear. This can cause a loss of hearing and tinnitus, among other issues.

Can Lyme disease make you feel off balance?

Yes, Lyme disease can cause balance issues. These include vertigo, dizziness, and ataxia, which can all affect a person’s balance.

Although vertigo is not a common symptom of Lyme disease, some people do experience it as a result of inner ear inflammation and damage, which the disease can cause.

Lyme disease can inflame and damage the inner ear, as well as the vestibulocochlear nerve, which helps maintain a person’s sense of balance and movement. The disease can interfere with the functioning of these areas, which can cause vertigo and other balance issues.

A person should seek treatment as soon as possible for Lyme disease, as an early diagnosis and antibiotic treatment greatly improve a person’s outlook.