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Life in Motion

Could Your Knee Pain be Caused by Lyme Disease?

Health & Prevention, Joint Health

Lyme disease is a complex disease, with many of the symptoms often found in other conditions, making diagnosis difficult. Brian Hollenbeck, Chief of Infectious Disease at NEBH, explains that Lyme disease is an infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is transmitted when an infected tick bites a person, with typical initial symptoms including fever, headache, fatigue, and a skin rash that may look like a bullseye. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.

Lyme Arthritis

If Lyme disease is untreated, some patients will develop Lyme arthritis, which includes painful swelling, warmth and redness of the joint, most commonly affecting the knee. Lyme arthritis differs from other forms of arthritis in that the pain isn’t constant. It is usually limited to one side and typically only effects one joint. The swelling and pain will usually get better without treatment, but can recur intermittently until the disease is treated with antibiotics. With time and proper antibiotic treatment, Lyme arthritis symptoms resolve completely in 97% of patients.

Preventing Tick Bites

Minimizing your exposure to ticks is the best defense against Lyme disease. The following measures are recommended to reduce your likelihood of tick bites:

  • Wear Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, 2-undecanone repellent on your bare skin or wear clothes that have repellent built-in.
  • Check for ticks at the end of each day. Pay particular attention to the ears, back of the hair line, behind the knees, armpits and in the groin and around the thighs.
  • If you have been outside where ticks may be, change your clothes once inside.
  • Avoid shortcuts through thick brush and grass.

For more information on Lyme disease and prevention, visit

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