Can Lyme Disease Cause Neuropathy?

Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease that rapidly progresses. Transmitted by the bite of an infected deer tick, Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast section of the United States. However, the disease has also appeared in the upper East coast, in the upper Midwest, and along the coasts of northern California and Oregon.

Signs of Lyme disease include skin rash and painful inflammation of joints (particularly the knees), accompanied by flu-like symptoms. The symptoms of Lyme disease increase in severity as the disease spreads though the body.

Early diagnosis and treatment are important to stop the progression of the disease. If untreated, the disease can result in neurological disorders such as peripheral neuropathy, including Bell's palsy, as well as pain, numbness or weakness in the limbs. The onset of peripheral neuropathy typically develops weeks, months or years later, if the disease is left untreated.

While potentially serious, Lyme disease can be treated, especially in the early stages. It is important to take preventive measures when outdoors in areas known to have infected deer ticks. Some helpful steps include: wearing enclosed shoes and light colored clothing; checking clothing and exposed skin frequently for ticks; and using insect repellant containing DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide) on skin or clothes.


(Not all symptoms and signs may be present.)

Lyme disease progresses in three stages of severity:

    • First Stage:
      • Fatigue
      • Fever and chills
      • Muscle and joint pain
      • Red circular rash
      • Stiff neck
      • Swollen lymph nodes
    • Second Stage:
      • Facial paralysis (Bell's palsy)
      • Irregular heartbeat
      • Meningitis (fever, stiff neck, severe headaches)
      • Numbness and pain in arms and legs
      • Stiff neck
      • Poor coordination
    • Third Stage:
      • Chronic arthritis and swelling in large joints, especially the knees
      • Chronic pain in muscles
      • Problems with sleeping
      • Numbness and pain in arms and legs
      • Nervous system problems
        • Difficulty concentrating
        • Memory loss
      • Numbness and tingling
      • Peripheral neuropathy
        • Pain, numbness and tingling in limbs
        • Paralysis of facial muscles (Bell's palsy)


(Not all evaluation and tests may be necessary.)


(Not all treatments and therapies may be indicated.)

  • Antibiotics
  • Intravenous therapy
  • Blood sugar control
  • For Bell's palsy (facial paralysis)
    • Eye drops for affected eye
    • Medications such as steroids to reduce inflammation of nerve and decrease pain
    • Surgery (in rare cases to improve appearance)
    • Treatment of underlying inflammatory condition, if present
  • If experiencing weakness, pain, or inflammation (in limbs or knees)
    • Ask your doctor about special therapeutic shoes or a knee brace (which may be covered by Medicare and other insurance)
    • Take safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation
  • Lyme disease is curable, if treated early

*Source: UChicago Centre for Peripheral Neuropathy (