Deer ticks carry the bacterium that causes Lyme disease and pass it to humans through bites. The infection typically causes a rash around the site of the original bite, along with flu-like symptoms. It can progress to more severe symptoms if left untreated.

Lyme disease is known to be a risk factor for certain health conditions, including some types of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). But there is no known link between Lyme disease and any type of leukemia.

In this article, we take a look at what research has found about Lyme disease and leukemia.

Lyme disease causes inflammation in the body. It can lead to serious complications and can increase the risk of some health conditions. But there is no proven link between Lyme disease and leukemia.

Some research has linked Lyme disease to a heightened risk of other types of cancer, but there is not a known link to leukemia.

Risk factors for leukemia

Lyme disease is not a risk factor for leukemia, but there are several known factors that can increase your risk of leukemia, including:

Was this helpful?

Lyme disease has been linked to an increased risk of lymphoma. Additionally, there’s some evidence that bacterial infections like Lyme disease cause inflammation that increases the risk of multiple types of cancer.

It’s thought that infections such as Lyme disease might change your DNA, but more research is needed to understand the details of this process.

Some scientists believe Lyme disease might cause lasting suppression of your immune system. Over time, this could allow changes to your DNA. This could create an ideal environment for cancer cells to develop and thrive.

There is a known link between Lyme disease and multiple other conditions. These complications generally only occur if Lyme disease is left untreated. Complications can include:

Complications can appear months or even years after you were first diagnosed with Lyme disease.

It’s possible to have Lyme disease and leukemia at the same time, along with symptoms of both conditions.

Lyme disease and leukemia can both cause broad symptoms, such as muscle pain and fever, but there’s otherwise very little overlap in symptoms.

Symptoms of leukemiaSymptoms of Lyme disease
easy bleedinga bull’s-eye rash at the site of the original tick bite
easy bruisingflu-like symptoms
feverchest pain
night sweatsheadache
unintentional weight loss swollen lymph nodes
bone and muscle paindizziness
rapid heart rate
joint pain
muscle pain
an overall feeling of being unwell

Can Lyme disease make leukemia worse (or affect treatment) if you have both at the same time?

Lyme disease treatment will not affect your leukemia treatment or make leukemia worse. There’s no known increased risk of complications when a person has both Lyme disease and leukemia at the same time.

Can Lyme disease be mistaken for other illnesses?

Lyme disease normally creates a signature “bull’s-eye” rash. But not everyone with Lyme disease has this rash. When the rash is not present, it’s very easy to mistake Lyme disease for other conditions. It shares many symptoms with other infections. A medical exam can help confirm a diagnosis.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. As long as Lyme disease is diagnosed early, antibiotics can be used. Most people will take antibiotics for 2 to 3 weeks. Intravenous (IV) antibiotics are used for severe cases of Lyme disease that impact the central nervous system. Treatment normally takes 2 to 4 weeks.

Can I get Lyme disease from my dog?

There’s no evidence that dogs or other household pets can pass Lyme disease to humans. But dogs can carry infected ticks into your home or backyard. So although your dog can’t pass Lyme disease to you, they can increase your risk of contracting Lyme disease.

Tick repellent products can help keep ticks out of your dog’s fur and out of your home.

What’s the best way to prevent Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium carried by deer ticks. You can reduce your risk of Lyme disease by preventing contact with deer ticks. Some of the best ways to do this include:

  • Be aware of and vigilant in places where Lyme disease is prevalent. In the United States, most infections occur in the:
    • Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions, from Northeastern Virginia to Maine
    • North Central states, primarily Wisconsin and Minnesota
    • West Coast, especially Northern California
    • NOTE: Maps showing the distribution of human cases are not necessarily where people contracted the bacterium. Cases that are reported from an area where Lyme disease is not expected are almost always travel-related, meaning the person most likely contracted the bacterium while spending time in an area known for harboring (endemic to) Lyme disease.
  • Use insect repellent. Apply insect repellent before you head to wooded or grassy areas. It’s best to look for products with more than 20 percent DEET.
  • Cover up. Long sleeves and long pants can help keep deer ticks off your skin.
  • Stick to trails. Stay on trails and avoid hiking through high grass.
  • Keep your dog on a leash. Keeping your dog on a leash can keep them with you on the trail and reduce the chance of them picking up ticks.
  • Mow your lawn. Keeping the grass on your lawn short and the bushes trimmed can help reduce the tick population on your property.
  • Check your skin and your pets after being outside. It’s important to check yourself, your pets, and your children for ticks when you return from time outdoors. It’s a good idea to shower right away if you’ve been in the woods or a grassy area.
  • Remove any tick you find. Ticks can be removed with tweezers. It’s important to work slowly and carefully and to clean the bite area with antiseptic once the tick is removed. The less time a tick is attached to your skin, the less likely it is to transmit the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease causes widespread inflammation. It’s linked to long-term health complications, including serious conditions such as hepatitis. Lyme disease is also linked to an increased risk of lymphoma.

According to the ACS, in certain parts of Europe, contracting Borrelia, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease, has been linked with skin lymphomas. However, this link has only been found in a small number of cases and has not been reported in the United States.

Most people with skin lymphomas have never had Lyme disease, and most people with Lyme disease don’t develop lymphomas of the skin.

No link between Lyme disease and an increased risk of leukemia has been found to date.

You can have Lyme disease and leukemia at the same time, but they will not affect each other. Having both conditions at once will not make treatment for either condition more difficult or less effective.