Is Lyme Disease Curable?

The tick-borne illness can be treated with antibiotics, and most people are cured within weeks or months.

Ticks that carry Lyme disease bacteria may be out in full force, especially in wooded or grassy areas. If you or someone else get bit by a tick, you may have the question, "Is Lyme disease curable?" The good news is that it is.

You can treat and cure Lyme disease by taking a course of oral antibiotics that lasts around two to four weeks. However, some people develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), symptoms like pain, fatigue, and reduced ability to concentrate lasting as long as six months after treatment. Here's what else you need to know.

bulls-eye rash lyme disease tick tick-bite skin health
Wikicommons / Hannah Garrison

Stages of Lyme Disease

Lyme disease has three stages: early localized, early disseminated, or late disseminated. How much bacteria has spread throughout the body determines the Lyme disease stage:

  • Early localized: Bacteria are only in one part of the body
  • Early disseminated: Bacteria have started to spread to more areas of the body
  • Late disseminated: Bacteria have affected the body throughout

Lyme disease symptoms will vary depending on the stage of the disease. Also, antibiotics are the main treatment at any Lyme disease stage, though the type of antibiotics recommended will be based on the stage. Most people will recover following antibiotic treatment, but recovery could be anywhere from a few weeks to months after treatment is complete.

Stage 1: Early Localized

In early localized Lyme disease, symptoms can appear within 1 to 28 days after a person has been bitten. The primary symptoms may include erythema migrans, a skin rash that can expand over time and appear in rings, and a low-grade fever.

Beyond a fever, a person could experience other symptoms such as eye redness or tearing, headache, myalgia, or neck stiffness. However, some individuals may not have any symptoms beyond the rash.


Antibiotics keep Lyme disease and its symptoms from getting worse and more severe. Oral antibiotics is the treatment for Lyme disease in this stage, and the antibiotics are taken daily. The time to take them will range from 10 to 21 days for doxycycline and 14 to 21 days for amoxicillin or cefuroxime.

Stage 2: Early Disseminated

The second stage falls three to 12 weeks following a tick bite infection. During this stage, you could experience symptoms like:

  • Dizziness
  • Extreme irritability or depression
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Keratitis (inflamed corneas)
  • Malaise
  • Muscle, chest, or eye pain
  • Trouble breathing


For this stage of the disease, a healthcare provider may prescribe oral or intravenous (IV) antibiotics. Milder cases in stage 2 involving symptoms like skin lesions or nerve problems will utilize oral antibiotics. More serious cases will use IV antibiotic treatment, which may last 10 to 28 days but commonly 14 days.

Stage 3: Late Disseminated

Lyme disease symptoms in the late disseminated stage may happen months or years following infection. A person may also have symptoms or health conditions under the following categories:

  • Cardiac: Irregular heartbeat, transient heart blocks
  • Neurological: Bell palsy, cognitive deficits, distorted senses, seizures
  • Rheumatological: Arthritis

There may also be worsened symptoms from earlier stages, like severe headaches, neck stiffness, and intermittent muscle or joint pain.


People with late disseminated Lyme disease may need oral antibiotics for about a month—around 28 days. However, they may need other therapies or surgery to treat any arthritis that does not go away after a finished course of antibiotics.

IV treatment might be required if you d not respond well to oral antibiotic treatment. IV treatment with ceftriaxone or cefotaxime also treats neurological conditions that come with Lyme disease. You will need the treatment daily, with a two- to four-week treatment course.

Other Treatment Considerations

It's possible to start treatment before any symptoms start, and sometimes symptoms can stick around after a finished course of treatment.

Preemptive Treatment

Sometimes, one dose of antibiotics, doxycycline, can be given preemptively before symptoms of Lyme disease begin. Healthcare providers may prescribe this treatment if:

  • A tick was removed within the last 72 hours
  • The tick was attached to the skin for at least 36 hours
  • The tick is an adult or nymph blacklegged tick
  • The patient was in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent
  • The patient has no contraindication to doxycycline

Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome

In a small percentage of cases, people experience symptoms for more than six months after their recommended course of antibiotics is completed. This is sometimes referred to as chronic Lyme disease.

The name chronic Lyme disease is misleading because there is no evidence that the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is still present in the body. Instead, the condition may be referred to as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

Approximately 10% to 20% of people infected with Lyme disease can expect to develop post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. The disease is characterized by neurological symptoms, fatigue, and muscle aches.

If you're treated for Lyme disease and don't feel better after you've finished your treatment, talk to your healthcare provider. They may recommend a longer course of antibiotics or may be able to prescribe another medication to help with symptoms like joint or muscle pain.

A Quick Review

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can be cured. Lyme disease has three stages, based on how much bacteria has spread throughout the body. Also, the later the disease stage, the more serious the symptoms can be.

If you suspect you have Lyme disease, contact a healthcare provider if you notice any symptoms and get treatment as early as possible. Early treatment can prevent you from developing serious complications.

Was this page helpful?
9 Sources uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. MedlinePlus. Lyme disease.

  2. Hu L. Patient education: Lyme disease symptoms and diagnosis (beyond the basics). In UpToDate. UpToDate; 2022.

  3. Hu L. Patient education. Lyme disease treatment (beyond the basics). In UpToDate. UpToDate; 2021.

  4. Skar GL, Simonsen KA. Lyme disease. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2023.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Signs and symptoms of Lyme disease.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guidance for clinicians - caring for patients after a tick bite.

  7. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Chronic Lyme disease.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.

  9. Adrion ER, Aucott J, Lemke KW, Weiner JP. Health care costs, utilization and patterns of care following Lyme disease. Brissette CA, ed. PLoS ONE. 2015;10(2):e0116767.

Related Articles