Alternative treatments for Lyme disease
This report describes five patients who suffered serious adverse medical outcomes, including death, while receiving prolonged antibiotic treatment for a diagnosis of “chronic Lyme disease.”
Lyme disease is a tickborne illness caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The recommended treatment for Lyme disease is generally a 2–4-week course of antibiotics.
The term “chronic Lyme disease,” on the other hand, is a vague term used by some health care providers to describe a range of physical, muscle, joint, and nervous system symptoms. Some patients are diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease even when there is no laboratory evidence of B. burgdorferi infection, no objective signs of infection, and no history of likely exposure to infected ticks.
It is important for people with Lyme disease to be diagnosed promptly and treated appropriately. It is equally important for patients who have other illnesses to receive a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment. This report underscores the need for patients and clinicians to be aware of the risks of long-term and alternative treatments for chronic Lyme disease.
Information about sepsis and central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI)
Antibiotics are the only known effective treatment for Lyme disease, but a quick search on the internet will introduce you to other untested remedies that claim to cure Lyme disease or chronic Lyme disease. These products—available online or from some health care providers—may be dangerous, deadly, or simply a waste of money. For more information, see:
Lantos PM, Shapiro ED, Auwaerter PG, Baker PJ, Halperin JJ, McSweegan E, Wormser GP. Unorthodox alternative therapies marketed to treat Lyme disease. Clin Infect Dis. 2015 Jun 15;60(12):1776-82. (Used with permission of Oxford University Press, ©2015)
How can I find reliable information about treatment options?
If you have questions about a drug, medicine, supplement, or medical device, talk to your pharmacist. If you feel that you need a second opinion, university-affiliated hospitals typically provide high-quality care. Want to learn more? These resources can help:
- “How to find a good doctor”–An online reference by Consumer Reports with tips for choosing a doctor
- How to evaluate health information on the internet–Tips from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
- Directory of State Medical and Osteopathic Boards–Make sure your physician is licensed. You can also view any legal action taken against your practitioner. (Sanctions from one state will not necessarily appear on the records from another state.)
- “I’ve got nothing to lose”–A guide to understanding claims about cures and treatments from the non-profit group, Sense about Science
- FDA–Provides links to warnings, letters of complaint, and recall information for medical devices, supplements, and approved or non-approved drugs
- Page last reviewed: November 25, 2015
- Page last updated: June 15, 2017
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