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Medications for Lyme Disease
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your doctor.
Two main medications used for Lyme disease include:
Common names include:
- Doxycycline (Vibramycin and others)
- Amoxicillin (Amoxil and others)
- Cefuroxime (Ceftin, Kefurox, Zinacef)
- Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
Antibiotics are given to treat patients in all stages of Lyme disease. Their aim is to kill the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. A repeat course of antibiotic therapy may be needed if Lyme disease infection recurs. Some people may continue to develop symptoms and complications of the disease even after the bacteria are killed.
- Doxycycline—This antibiotic is given in pill form for several weeks or sometimes longer. Doxycycline can cause an upset stomach and should be taken with food. It cannot be used in pregnant women and children under 8 years of age.
- Amoxicillin—This is a type of penicillin antibiotic. It is given to pregnant women, children under 8, and those allergic to tetracycline. It is given in pill form or liquid for children under age 8. The medication will be given over several weeks. It can be taken on an empty or full stomach.
- Cefuroxime and ceftriaxone—These are given when you cannot take either of the other antibiotics, or if you have serious complications. Cefuroxime is usually given in pill or liquid form and should be taken with a full glass of water. They can be taken with food or a glass of milk if they upset your stomach. Ceftriaxone is given in IV form or as an injection into the muscle.
Possible side effects of all antibiotics include:
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Nausea and vomiting
- Allergic reaction, including skin rash, swelling, and difficulty breathing
- Hypersensitivity to sunlight (most common with doxycycline)
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Common names include:
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Genpril, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, Rufen)
- Naproxen sodium (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn)
NSAIDs are pain relievers. Your doctor may advise you to use them if you have arthritis pain as a complication of Lyme disease. The dose depends on the amount of pain. For severe pain, NSAIDs are available in higher doses by prescription. They should be taken with food and a full glass of water.
Possible side effects include:
- Increased bleeding after surgery
- Upset stomach
- Ulcers or gastrointestinal bleeding
- Flu-like feeling
- Asthma or chest tightness
NSAIDs may interfere with other medications including those treating high blood pressure . Be sure any doctor prescribing NSAIDs knows about your past medical history and any of your other medicines. If you are aged 50 or older or have previously had bleeding from the stomach or upper gastrointestinal tract, your doctor may prescribe different medications than the ones listed above.
If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
- Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
- Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
- Do not share them.
- Know what the results and side effects. Report them to your doctor.
- Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.
- Plan ahead for refills so you don’t run out.
Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/diagnosistreatment/index.html . Updated July 26, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2012.
Lyme disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 29, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2012.
Lyme disease. lymedisease.org. Available at: http://www.lymedisease.org/lyme101/lyme%5Fdisease/lyme%5Fdisease.html . Accessed September 26, 2012.
Lyme disease. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/lymeDisease/understanding/Pages/intro.aspx . Updated March 29, 2011. Accessed September 26, 2012.
United States Pharmacopeial Convention. USP DI . 21st ed. Englewood, CO: Micromedex; 2001.
- Reviewer: David L. Horn, MD, FACP
- Review Date: 12/2014
- Update Date: 12/20/2014