What does a Lyme flare-up feel like? Ask the Lyme Doc.

What does a Lyme flare-up feel like

Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness that can lead to unpredictable disease flare-ups and remissions. The best know flare-up is called a Herxheimer reaction. A Herxheimer reaction was first identified in patients with syphilis and occurs when the body reacts to endotoxin-like products released by the death of bacteria in the body after starting an antibiotic. A flare-up may occur following a trigger or as part of the illness.


When a Lyme disease flare occurs, patients will notice a return of the symptoms they have experienced before or a worsening of existing symptoms. Some patients may also develop new symptoms. A flare-up can come and go and vary in intensity.  What does a Lyme flare-up feel like? The symptoms of a flare-up can include:

  • an increase in fatigue
  • problems with memory and concentration, sometimes referred to as ‘brain fog’
  • extreme sensitivity to bright lights, heat, cold, and noise
  • muscle stiffness
  • mood changes (including irritability)
  • poor quality sleep
  • dizziness
  • numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • widespread muscle pain
  • blurred vision
  • general body pain

What triggers a flare-up?

One of the best ways to prevent a flare is to determine what might be causing it in the first place. These causes are called triggers. Triggers for Lyme disease vary by person, but they can include:

  • emotional stress (such as a divorce, death in the family, or accidents)
  • physical stress to the body (i.e., surgery, physical harm, concussion)
  • life stress or stressful events
  • infections, colds or viral illnesses
  • exhaustion
  • diets including processed sugars and alcohol
  • menstrual period
  • lack of sleep
  • traveling and/or changes in schedule
  • changes in treatment

How do you prevent a flare-up?

There are ways to help prevent a flare-up but most importantly, patients need to listen to their bodies and identify triggers that set off a flare in symptoms. Following are several ways to prevent a flare-up:

  • Treat your Lyme disease
  • Reduce your stress
  • Get enough rest and sleep
  • Stay away from foods that make you feel worse, including alcohol and processed sugars
  • Learn to pace yourself to avoid doing too much when you are feeling well
  • Keep up your health
  • Stay hydrated
  • Work with your doctor to get your symptoms under control
  • Some people find ‘positive thinking’ helpful
  • Try focusing on the things you can do, rather than those you can’t
  • You might find a mental health provider helpful

Editor’s note. What does a Lyme flare-up feel like?  Ask the Lyme doc sponsored by Dr. Cameron

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9 Replies to "What does a Lyme flare-up feel like? Ask the Lyme Doc."

  • Joel Halaszynski
    02/26/2021 (6:56 pm)

    I have chronic pain at times I have been diagnosed with neuropathy and they don’t know why. No back or not a diabetic. I now have upper shoulder pain and no reason I was diagnosed with Lyme 15+ years ago Family doctor and a Lyme doctor said yes even though it didn’t show in the blood work. Local hospital said no I had all systems breathing chest pain achy joints etc etc etc. At times vision breathing and chronic pain

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      02/27/2021 (7:41 am)

      There are so many causes for any neuropathy or shoulder pain. I find Lyme disease has been the cause of these problems in some of my patients some of the time.

  • silvana
    02/09/2021 (4:01 am)

    In the Netherlands chronic lymepatients are desperate for help and hope things will change and doctors eyes will be opened someday.
    When I experience a flare up I’ ll be on antibiotics & chloroquinine for months until all symtoms are gone. There are only three ilads left here , luckely I can afford treatment by taking meds oraly. Flare ups come with very painfull radiculitis like symtoms, burning feet and limbs, heavy brainfog and fears.

  • Linda Hartford
    02/05/2021 (12:14 pm)

    With a Lyme flare-up, I usually experience intense headaches during the night and when I awake in the morning; these often last for days. Muscle soreness is so intense that I feel that I’ve been hit by a truck. Also, the brain fog I experience is so strong that my short term memory along with typing /writing is non-existent. I do not trust myself to operate a motor vehicle because all of my senses are heavily muted. I wish someone would tell me where the joy in life is….

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      02/05/2021 (7:41 pm)

      I encourage my patients to try any find joy despite the illness.

  • Melony Vasho
    02/05/2021 (8:58 am)

    I don’t think there is any single item to describe a Lyme flare up…no matter what I feel it’s due to Lyme and in my opinion Morgellons. Ie never seen so many things come out of my skin. It’s like I’ve become a three D printer of unusual and horrible things. Anyone with Lyme knows there is no ONE single flare up, it’s an explosion of every possible pain can imagine. Im having a Lyme flare up now, but this is some sort of parasite that has caused my stomach to expand and I’m in pain beyond belief, I feel these things jumping on my face, I caught of what looks like egg sacs of parasites. My skin is crawling with larvae and eggs. Not one Dr or hospital has looked to see what is really there. I can see it, describe it, my liver and stomach are being attacked but no one cares. Im at the lowest point of my entire life and can get no help, nothing…I simply cry all the time. I know that an antiparasitic can help me feel a little better, but ivermectin is impossible to get. It’s being listed as a Covid cure, henceforth it’s gone, disappeared.
    I’m starting to see that many drs know what I have but not one will step up and say so. When you see them ignore huge sores, weird looking things coming from my body, yet not look, something is not right. As a result I lay suffering with no pain meds, no antianxiety meds and nothing to keep me from jumping out of my skin. Im going to die this way, I can feel it.😢

    • Angela Berry Koch
      02/06/2021 (10:28 am)

      I’ve had to study a lot about mast cell disorders ( tested positive for Alpha Tryptasemia), to keep flares minimal. In my clients I often see the same. It’s not the bugs so much as my immune system’s reaction to them and to die off that seems to be the culprit. Baby steps re antimicrobials and plenty of natural mast cell stabilizers and anti histamines, controlling oxalate and salicylate intake ( I have sensitivity), reducing ammonia, gentle biofilm work, and plenty of detox binders has helped.

    02/05/2021 (7:24 am)

    I had knee replacement 28 months ago. My knee swelled and was drained 6 times. A blood test revealed Lyme and I took antibiotics for 8 weeks. The knee continues to swell. Blood tests and fluid analysis show no infection. A bone scan was hot in 3 areas. Any suggestions? Thank you.

    • Dr. Daniel Cameron
      02/05/2021 (7:38 pm)

      I find it difficult to be sure Lyme disease and co-infections have cleared. I encourage my patients to look for other causes. I have patients who have improved with a change in antibiotics. Call my office at 914 666 4665 if you have questions.

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