How Does Lyme Disease Affect the Brain?

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that you can catch if you’ve been bitten by an infected deer tick. The first symptoms of Lyme disease, which include a target-shaped rash, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, muscle aches, and headache, can appear within a few days or weeks. Your doctor can promptly recognize and diagnose Lyme disease and treat it with antibiotics. But when treatment is delayed, the infection can spread to other areas, including the nerves, liver, and eyes. The infection can also spread to the central nervous system –- the brain and spinal cord –- and cause the problems listed below.

Common Cognitive Effects

Lyme disease can cause encephalopathy, also called brain fog, which is a general term used for a condition that affects the way your brain functions. Its effects include:

  • Memory loss
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Difficulty forming words or thoughts
  • Personality changes
  • Disorganization
  • Symptoms similar to dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Disorganization and getting lost

Lyme Disease and Meningitis

Lyme disease can cause meningitis and encephalitis. Meningitis is a swelling of the lining of the brain and spinal cord. Encephalitis is a swelling of the brain itself. The symptoms of both are similar and include:

  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Memory loss
  • Impaired reasoning abilities

Both conditions are treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

Psychological Conditions

Lyme disease can also cause mental or psychiatric problems, including:

  • Sleep disorders
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Although rare, more severe cases of Lyme disease may have some connection to:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Paranoia
  • Hallucinations

Learn More About the Long-Term Effects of Lyme Disease and the Brain with Baptist Health

If you believe you have Lyme disease and are experiencing the psychological effects associated with it, find your local Baptist Health physician and schedule an appointment today to learn more.

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