Lyme disease: an infectious and postinfectious syndrome

J Rheumatol. 1994 Mar;21(3):454-61.


Objective: To determine chronic morbidity and the variables that influence recovery in patients who had been treated for Lyme disease.

Methods: Retrospective evaluation of 215 patients from Westchester County, NY, who fulfilled Centers for Disease Control case definition for Lyme disease, were anti-Borrelia antibody positive and were diagnosed and treated at least one year before our examination.

Results: Erythema migrans had occurred in 70% of patients, neurological involvement in 29%, objective cardiac problems in 6%, arthralgia in 78% and arthritis in 41%. Patients were seen at a mean of 3.2 years after initial treatment. A history of relapse with major organ involvement had occurred in 28% and a history of reinfection in 18%. Anti-Borrelia antibodies, initially present in all patients, were still positive in 32%. At followup, 82 (38%) patients were asymptomatic and clinically active Lyme disease was found in 19 (9%). Persistent symptoms of arthralgia, arthritis, cardiac or neurologic involvement with or without fatigue were present in 114 (53%) patients. Persistent symptoms correlated with a history of major organ involvement or relapse but not the continued presence of anti-Borrelial antibodies. Thirty-five of the 114 (31%) patients with persistent symptoms had predominantly arthralgia and fatigue. Antibiotic treatment within 4 weeks of disease onset was more likely to result in complete recovery. Children did not significantly differ from adults in disease manifestations or in the frequency of relapse, reinfection or complete recovery.

Conclusion: Despite recognition and treatment, Lyme disease is associated with significant infectious and postinfectious sequelae.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Bacterial / blood
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / epidemiology
  • Arrhythmias, Cardiac / microbiology
  • Borrelia burgdorferi Group / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Lyme Disease / complications
  • Lyme Disease / diagnosis
  • Lyme Disease / drug therapy
  • Lyme Disease / epidemiology*
  • Lyme Disease / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / epidemiology
  • Nervous System Diseases / microbiology
  • New York / epidemiology
  • Recurrence
  • Registries
  • Risk Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antibodies, Bacterial