Background: "Post-Lyme disease syndrome" refers to prolonged subjective symptoms after antibiotic treatment and resolution of an objective manifestation of Borrelia burgdorferi infection (Lyme disease). "Chronic Lyme disease" is a vaguely defined term that has been applied to patients with unexplained prolonged subjective symptoms, whether or not there was or is evidence of B. burgdorferi infection.
Objective: To determine if the population of patients with chronic Lyme disease differs from the populations of patients with either Lyme disease or post-Lyme disease syndrome by examining the gender of patients with these diagnoses.
Methods: Data on gender were compiled in this cross-sectional study based on a systematic review of published studies of antibiotic treatment in United States patients with post-Lyme disease syndrome (n = 184) or chronic Lyme disease (n = 490), and on cases of adults with Lyme disease reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2003 to 2005 (n = 43,282).
Results: Patients with chronic Lyme disease were significantly more likely to be female than were patients diagnosed with either Lyme disease (odds ratio [OR] 2.42, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.98-2.94, p < 0.0001) or with post-Lyme disease syndrome (OR 2.32, 95% CI 1.62-3.34, p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: Patients with chronic Lyme disease differ with regard to gender from those with either B. burgdorferi infection or post-Lyme disease syndrome. This finding suggests that illnesses with a female preponderance, such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or depression, may be misdiagnosed as chronic Lyme disease.