Diagnosis and clinical characteristics of ocular Lyme borreliosis

Am J Ophthalmol. 1995 Feb;119(2):127-35. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9394(14)73864-4.


Purpose: To establish a diagnosis, in a group of patients we studied the characteristics of ocular Lyme borreliosis.

Methods: During a two-year period, 236 patients with prolonged external ocular inflammation, uveitis, retinitis, optic neuritis, or unexplained neuro-ophthalmic symptoms were examined for Lyme borreliosis. Antibodies to Borrelia burgdorferi were measured by indirect ELISA and western blot. Cerebrospinal fluid was also analyzed by polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Ocular Lyme borreliosis was diagnosed in ten patients on the basis of medical history, clinical findings, and serologic test results. Results of ELISA disclosed that five patients were seropositive, two patients showed borderline reactivity, and three patients were seronegative. Four of the five patients with borderline or negative results by ELISA had a positive result by western blot analysis. In one seropositive patient, polymerase chain reaction verified a gene of B. burgdorferi endoflagellin from the vitreous and cerebrospinal fluid specimen. In five of the six patients with known onset of the Borrelia infection, the ocular disorder appeared as a late manifestation. Abnormalities of the posterior segment of the eye, such as vitreitis, retinal vasculitis, neuroretinitis, choroiditis, and optic neuropathy were seen in six patients. Bilateral paralytic mydriasis, interstitial keratitis, episcleritis, and anterior uveitis were seen in one patient each.

Conclusions: Late-phase ocular Lyme borreliosis is probably underdiagnosed because of weak seropositivity or seronegativity in ELISA assays. Ocular borrelial manifestations show characteristics resembling those seen in syphilis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / analysis
  • Blotting, Western
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / genetics
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / immunology
  • Cerebrospinal Fluid / microbiology
  • DNA, Bacterial / analysis
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / diagnosis*
  • Eye Infections, Bacterial / etiology
  • Female
  • Fluorescein Angiography
  • Fundus Oculi
  • Humans
  • Lyme Disease / diagnosis*
  • Lyme Disease / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Vitreous Body / microbiology


  • Antibodies, Bacterial
  • DNA, Bacterial