February 12, 2019

Living With Lyme Disease: How to Promote Long-Term Healing

After infection clears, full recovery can take time

Target-like rash from lyme disease infection

If you don’t notice the tiny deer tick bite on your body, it can be easy to dismiss signs of Lyme disease. You may suspect flu and give it a week or so, thinking it will resolve on its own. But by then, the bacterial infection has had time to spread.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

“The human body reacts the same way to many different things,” says primary care physician Daniel Sullivan, MD. “If you get the flu, you get a low-grade fever, develop muscle aches and feel a little off, and if you are infected with the Lyme bacteria you can feel the same way.”

These types of symptoms might warrant someone considering getting medical attention, but not necessarily right away, he says.

How does Lyme disease work?

The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi causes Lyme disease when it get into your bloodstream. You may experience a variety of symptoms, depending on the stage of infection.

Early on, typical symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headache, joint aches and – most distinctively – a spreading rash that resembles a bulls-eye.

But if it isn’t identified and treated within 36 to 48 hours, the infection can spread to other parts of your body, including the heart and nervous system.


The later, more serious stages of Lyme disease can lead to neurological damage and arthritis.

Treating Lyme disease

Most people notice the bulls-eye rash and seek treatment immediately. And, most often, that’s the end of the story, Dr. Sullivan says.

“During the early stages of Lyme disease, oral antibiotics treat the infection and most patients will recover quickly and completely,” he says. “If that rash is not noticed, it can then go on to other manifestations that can affect the muscles, joints, heart and nerves.”

Whether your doctor identifies the disease in early stages or late, the first step is to treat the infection with antibiotics.

“In most cases, where it is more distant and has spread, once the infection is treated, the inflammation and the irritation to the nerves, heart and joints will slowly resolve over time,” Dr. Sullivan explains.


Patients often ask whether a longer course of antibiotics would help speed healing, he notes. “Most patients are on antibiotics from 10 days to two weeks — if it affected the heart or spinal fluid, it’s four weeks,” he says.

While some patient advocacy sites call for longer therapy lasting up to six months, there is no evidence for going beyond four weeks, he says. “Within four weeks, the antibiotics will kill the bacteria. A longer course of antibiotics could potentially cause more harm than good.”

Living with Lyme disease

Once antibiotics resolve the infection, you can support your recovery from Lyme disease as you would with any kind of arthritis or nerve injury. It is recommended that you:

  • Eat a healthy diet and limit your sugar intake.
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes each day.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Use anti-inflammatory medication when necessary.

“The damage Lyme disease causes to your nerves or muscles would heal over a course of months,” Dr. Sullivan says. “Identifying the infection and treating it appropriately so that the infection is cleared is the first step. And then the body can start to heal.”

Related Articles

Protect against ticks and diseases they carry
May 25, 2022
How To Protect Yourself Against Ticks and Diseases They Carry

Tips and tricks to prevent Lyme disease

crowd of people at music concert
February 5, 2024
What Constitutes a ‘Superspreader Event’?

Any large social gathering — from a family birthday party to an indoor music concert — has the potential to spread serious infection

Female wrapped in blanket laying on sofa looking fatigued or unwell
January 23, 2024
How To Manage COVID Fatigue and Regain Your Energy

It’s important to connect with a healthcare provider, get quality sleep and balance your activities with your energy levels

Close-up of hands in lab gloves sorting vials and covid-19 blood sample
January 17, 2024
Everything You Need To Know About COVID-19 Variants

Just like the flu, COVID-19 will continue to evolve every year

Adult female on couch, coughing into crook of arm, holding thermometer
January 15, 2024
Prepping for Flurona: When COVID-19 and the Flu Strike at the Same Time

It’s best to treat flu-like symptoms as if you have COVID-19

positive COVID test with COVID virus molecules floating around it
December 20, 2023
How Long Does COVID-19 Last if You’re Vaccinated?

The duration varies, but symptoms can linger for a few days up to a couple weeks or more

A vaccine syringe in front of a passport for international travel.
December 4, 2023
Which Vaccines Are Required To Travel?

Plan early — getting the right vaccines can help you stay healthy on your travels

Closeup of shingles virus presenting on shoulder of person
December 3, 2023
Is the Shingles Vaccine Worthwhile?

It’s 97% effective in preventing shingles in people between the ages of 50 and 69

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture