Lyme disease treatment

DISCLAIMER: Caudwell LymeCo charity shares public domain  information, which it believes to be reliable, in good faith. It should never replace the advice of a qualified physician with a license to practise medicine. If you believe any information on this website to be incorrect, you are invited to contact the charity using the Contact page.

This page contains information on the following aspects of Lyme disease treatment:

  1. How is early (acute) Lyme disease treated?
  2. Can Lyme disease go away by itself?
  3. How is long-term Lyme disease treated?
    • Long-term prescription antibiotic therapy
    • Additional drugs to manage symptoms and complications
    • Antimicrobial herbal therapy
    • Nutritional supplements
  4. Alternative and experimental treatments

Caudwell Lyme Disease Charity does not offer individual medical advice, and does not hold an opinion on which treatments for Lyme disease are advisable. The information on this page is simply an overview of some of the treatments commonly used by patients to manage their illness. You should always seek the advice of a suitably qualified doctor with a license to practise medicine.

1. How is early (acute) Lyme disease treated?

If you are diagnosed with Lyme disease and prescribed antibiotics, it is very important to take the full course of treatment. Doxycycline and Amoxycillin are the antibiotics most commonly prescribed to treat Lyme disease. The current NHS guidelines (which are brief guidelines issued by Public Health England for doctors to refer to, not full guidelines produced by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence) recommend 2 to 4 weeks of antibiotic treatment, depending on symptoms.

It is generally thought that the earlier Lyme disease is treated, the more likely the patient is to make a complete recovery.

Medical evidence regarding which are the right antibiotics, the right length of treatment, and statistics on cure rates, is very limited. There is much debate on these topics, largely because of the lack of good quality evidence.

2. Can Lyme disease go away by itself? 

Some people are found to have Lyme disease antibodies, without recalling ever having been ill with Lyme disease. When an illness goes away by itself after a while, like a cold or influenza, it is called a “self-limiting illness”. Lyme disease is not a self-limiting illness for some people, but it appears that it is for others.

There is no evidence on how many people have recovered from Lyme disease without treatment, or theory as to why some people do whilst others do not.

3. How is long-term Lyme disease treated?

NHS treatment

The Public Health England treatment guidelines, currently the reference for UK doctors, state that Lyme disease is treated with a short course of antibiotics lasting 2 to 4 weeks even at the late stage of the illness. Longer periods of treatment may be necessary in cases of neuroborreliosis (Lyme disease severely affecting the brain).

Some people experience persisting symptoms after these courses of treatment.

Additional drugs to manage symptoms and complications

Many patients with long term Lyme disease symptoms are prescribed drugs to manage the symptoms of the disease, even if they are not taking antibiotics.

The commonest drugs prescribed are painkillers. Antidepressants and sleeping pills are also very frequently prescribed.

4. Alternative and experimental treatments

Long-term antibiotic therapy

Some doctors who treat long-term Lyme disease patients privately – most of whom work outside the UK – prescribe long term antibiotics. They may prescribe other drugs as well, intravenous antibiotics or combined antibiotic therapies. Treatments may last months.

These treatments are experimental. There is a lack of published research demonstrating that such approaches are effective, and there is also a lack of evidence that they are not. This is a controversial area, amongst patients as well as doctors. More research is desperately needed.

Antimicrobial herbal therapy

Some patients, with persistent symptoms after standard treatment with antibiotics, take herbal remedies.

The three most commonly used antibacterial protocols used are;

  • the Cowden Protocol, claimed to be based on herbs from the rainforst used by native Americans to treat Lyme disease for generations, and
  • the Buhner Protocol, developed by a herbalist who has experimented with his own protocol for Lyme and co-infections, and
  • more recently, a new Lyme Plus Protocol has been developed by the BCA clinic in Augsburg in association with two universities; this BCA herbal protocol was developed specifically to target European strains of Lyme and several co-infections.

Please follow the links in bold for more information on each herbal protocol.

Nutritional supplements

Some patients with persistent Lyme disease symptoms take nutritional supplements intended to support their immune systems and ease various symptoms.

Some common supplements taken include magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin B12 and all the B vitamins.