How does Lyme disease affect your eyes?

How does Lyme disease affect your vision

Lyme disease, caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, has become a big concern, particularly in the United States. It is a bacterial infection that is caused by the bite of an infected deer tick.

The infection starts out as a rash and can lead to a wide variety of symptoms, such as fever, headache, achy joints, and fatigue. The condition can affect multiple body systems, including the eyes.

Lyme disease can sometimes go unnoticed or go undiagnosed because of the associated Lyme coinfections and its potential to resemble other disorders.

Misdiagnosis or delayed treatment can cause bacteria to invade the nervous system, leading to neurological symptoms and inflammatory conditions. And when that happens, visual processes are affected.

Visual symptoms occur because the tick-borne disease affects visual processing in the brain. The most common visual symptoms due to Lyme disease may include double or blurry vision, sensitivity to light, visual fatigue, and headaches associated with visual activities.

Read on to learn how Lyme affects vision, its diagnosis, and the treatment of vision problems associated with this condition.

How does Lyme disease affect the vision?

As the disease progresses, the bacteria spread throughout the body, including the eyes and the structures around them. Lyme disease typically progresses in three stages: early localized, early disseminated, and late disseminated.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that the disease can have ocular involvement in any of the three stages.

The severity of ocular symptoms might differ significantly. Various symptoms appear at various stages of the disease. Here is how Lyme disease affects the eyes at different stages.

Stage I

In the early stage of Lyme disease, i.e., within 30 days of the tick bite, conjunctivitis was reported in around 10% of patients. It is a disorder that affects the white area of the eye and is characterized by symptoms such as red eyes, itchy eyes, and discharge.

Another eye problem that was reported in the early stages is photophobia, or light sensitivity. The patient can develop sudden and extreme sensitivity to light.

It is important to understand that this is not the same as the light sensitivity that one experiences when going from a dark environment to an area that consists of bright light. Rather, the patient experiences constant discomfort and pain from light. This eventually affects daily life and functioning.

Other visual symptoms that occur at this stage are blurred vision, double vision, headaches associated with visual activities, and visual fatigue.

Stage II

The stage is known as early disseminated Lyme disease, which occurs weeks to months after the infection. At this stage, the infection can cause:

  • Anterior uveitis/iritis: redness and swelling of the cornea (the protective outer layer at the front of the eye), the iris (the colored circle around the pupil), and the ciliary body (disk-shaped tissue found behind the iris).
  • Intermediate uveitis: inflammation of the retina, the blood vessels right behind the lens (pars plana), and the gel in the middle of the eye (vitreous).
  • Posterior uveitis: inflammation of a layer on the inside of the back of the eye, either the retina or the choroid (a layer of blood vessels in the eye).
  • Panuveitis: inflammation of all layers of the uvea, from the front to the back of your eye.

Any type of uveitis can cause red eyes, blurred vision, double vision, flashes, floaters in front of the eyes, altered color vision, intense pain, and eye pressure.

Stage III

It is also known as late disseminated Lyme disease. When the infection is left untreated in stages I and II, it progresses to stage III.

Along with affecting the joints and causing arthritis, the infection also leads to neuro-ophthalmic involvement. Symptoms include pain, tingling sensations, numbness, facial and cranial nerve palsies, and meningitis.

Neuro-ophthalmic involvement causes inflammation of the optic nerve, which transmits information from the eye to the brain and vice versa.

The involvement of the optic nerve affects the eye structures. The affected parts of the eye include the uvea, the cornea, the iris, the choroid, and the sclera (the white part of the eye).

Associated ocular symptoms are:

  • Eye pain
  • Double vision due to cranial nerve damage
  • Inflammation of the optic nerve
  • Redness in the eyes with or without pain
  • Impaired vision and floaters
  • Uveitis
  • Keratitis (swelling and redness in the cornea)
  • Scleritis (swelling and redness of the white part of the eye)

When Lyme disease impairs the visual process, the patient develops compensatory behaviors to cope with their impaired vision. This can strain the body, resulting in tiredness, pain, and a decrease in higher visual-perceptual processing associated with memory and cognitive function.

Diagnosis of visual problems caused by Lyme disease

If you have Lyme disease and are suffering from painful eye symptoms or changes in your vision, consult an ophthalmologist.

When Lyme disease is left untreated or progresses to chronic Lyme disease, it becomes difficult to diagnose as its symptoms may resemble those of other disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and fibromyalgia.

Thus, it is recommended that you visit your ophthalmologist at least once every 6 months for regular eye check-ups. Early recognition and treatment may prevent the illness from advancing to a more serious stage.

Treatment of Lyme disease vision problems

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When Lyme disease is diagnosed and treated at an early stage, the prognosis is typically good, and eye complications can be prevented. The standard treatment for Lyme disease is a long-term course of antibiotics. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe oral or intravenous infusions.

Typically, intraocular Lyme disease is treated with intravenous antibiotics. But sometimes, Jarisch–Herxheimer’s reaction may complicate the antibiotic treatment of ocular problems. It is a reaction that occurs when the Lyme bacteria is killed by antibiotics.

The dead bacteria may result in the release of endotoxins, causing temporary immune reactions in the body. The symptoms are chills, fever, intense fatigue, severe body pain, cold sweats, and a skin rash, which peak and subside within 24-26 hours.

Lyme disease is a difficult condition to manage, and its complications can be devastating. Therefore, it is important to look for safer and more effective treatment modalities that not only reduce symptom severity but also aid in preventing disease progression.

Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy is one of the most trusted and widely used therapies by patients with Lyme disease worldwide.

Due to its effects on tissue regeneration, pain relief, anti-inflammation, and antibacterial activity, PEMF therapy has the potential to be a helpful treatment for Lyme disease, MS, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and many other chronic conditions.

PEMF is non-invasive and very effective for patients with Lyme disease. Visit our products page for more information on how Sentient Element can help you get better from chronic Lyme disease.

Frequently asked questions

  1. Can Lyme disease eye problems be corrected?

As mentioned above, as Lyme disease progresses, it affects the optic nerve, causing inflammation, blurry vision, color vision loss, eye flashes, and double vision.

However, with proper antibiotic treatment, vision problems can be resolved. Hence, consult your doctor as soon as you experience symptoms of Lyme disease to get early treatment and prevent eye damage. The sooner you start taking prescribed antibiotics, the faster you will recover.

  1. What are the signs and symptoms of eye problems caused by Lyme disease?

The signs and symptoms vary greatly depending on the stage of the disease. However, the most common symptoms are red eyes, itching, and discharge.

  1. Can Lyme disease cause blindness?

It is unclear how this condition affects eyesight. However, it is well known that it can cause inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis), the choroid (choroiditis), and the uvea (uveitis), all of which can impair vision.

Lyme disease can also cause blood vessel damage (retinal vasculitis), which can lead to blindness. A case of a 45-year-old woman who developed unilateral endophthalmitis (an infection of fluids or tissue inside the eyeball) leading to blindness during the course of this disease was reported. Thus, the chances of vision loss are there.

  1. What does the Lyme disease rash around the eyes look like?

Erythema migrans, or bullseye rash, is one of the early signs of Lyme disease. The rash can be found at the site of the tick bite in 70%-80% of patients. Once the condition starts progressing, it can cause rashes in different parts of the body, including the eyes. Here is how you can differentiate a Lyme disease eye rash from another eye infection:

  • Lyme disease rash is not painful
  • Warm to the touch
  • Along with the rash, there are flu-like symptoms such as joint pain, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes.
  1. How can you prevent Lyme disease-related eye infections?

Preventing tick bites when outdoors is the best method to avoid Lyme disease. However, if you have been bitten by a tick, you should see a doctor immediately. Take the prescribed oral medicines since they can cure Lyme disease and prevent eye infections.


  • Karma A, Mikkila H. Occular manifestations and treatment of Lyme disease. Curr Opin Ophthalmol. 1996;7(3):7-12. PMID 10163463.

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