Lyme arthritis is joint disease caused by infection with bacteria in the Borrelia genus. People infected with these bacteria are sometimes said to have Lyme disease. Treatment for Lyme arthritis includes administration of antibiotics to kill the bacteria, paired with anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and make the patient more comfortable. Research has suggested that some people develop what is known as chronic Lyme disease, in which the disease cyclically recurs instead of being eliminated with treatment.
These bacteria are introduced to the body through bites from ticks. The disease is named for Lyme, Connecticut, where the first cluster of cases was observed. Joint pain, swelling, inflammation, and irritation is a hallmark of Lyme disease. Lyme arthritis can be seen in people of any age. If the bacteria persist untreated in the body, other symptoms can develop as well, including symptoms involving the central nervous system in some cases; people with Lyme disease may feel fatigued, experience nerve pain, and develop skin rashes.
When arthritis is identified in someone who is not otherwise at risk for arthritis, Lyme arthritis can be considered as a potential cause. If the person has been in an area where Lyme disease is present and has been exposed to ticks, these can be strong indicators that the patient may have Lyme arthritis. Diagnostic tests including tests on the blood and joint fluid can be used to check for the presence of the bacterium to confirm the diagnosis. Specialists who are used to seeing Lyme cases may be more adept at identifying the disease in the early stages.
Antibiotics are the first line of defense in Lyme arthritis treatment. They are administered to kill the disease-causing organisms behind the inflammation. If a patient's joint are unusually painful or swollen, drugs can be prescribed to treat the pain and swelling so that the patient will be more comfortable. Some patients also benefit from warm compresses, rest, and plenty of fluids.
In patients where Lyme disease has become recurring, pain in the joints can be an early warning sign that another bout of the disease is about to onset. Lyme arthritis can eventually cause severe damage to the joints because they can become worn down with inflammation. Consequently the patient may experience pain, stiffness, and a reduction in range of motion related to the joint damage. Gentle stretching can help patients preserve their range of motion and keep the joints as healthy as possible.