Lyme disease vs. multiple sclerosis

Sometimes conditions can have similar symptoms. If you feel tired, dizzy, or have numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, you may have multiple sclerosis (MS) or Lyme disease.

While both conditions may present themselves similarly in terms of symptoms, they’re very different in nature. If you suspect you have either, it’s best to contact your doctor for testing and diagnosis.

Lyme disease and MS have several symptoms in common, including:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • numbness or tingling
  • spasms
  • weakness
  • walking difficulties
  • vision problems

Additional symptoms that may occur with Lyme disease include:

  • an initial rash that may appear as a bull’s eye
  • flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, body aches, and headache
  • joint pain

Lyme disease is a condition transmitted from the bite of a black-legged or deer tick. When a tick attaches to you, it can transfer a spirochete bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi. The longer the tick is on you, the more likely you are to get Lyme disease.

Ticks live in areas lush with tall grasses and woods. They’re most common in the Northeast and upper Midwest of the United States. Anyone is susceptible to Lyme disease. There are at least 30,000 reported cases each year in the United States.

MS is a nervous system condition caused by immune system dysfunction. It affects your central nervous system. If you have MS, your immune system attacks the protective layer that covers nerve fibers, known as myelin. This causes problems in impulse transmission between your brain and spinal cord and the rest of your body, resulting in a range of symptoms.

MS is more commonly diagnosed in young adults and in those prior to middle age. Almost 1,000,000 people in the United States have it. It can range from mild to severe and is a lifelong condition.

Symptoms of MS can come and go but generally become more present with time. The exact causes of MS are unknown. Immunologic, environmental, infectious, and genetic factors are all suspected to contribute to this autoimmune condition.

The symptoms of Lyme disease and MS can be similar. Doctors may confuse one with the other. To diagnose these conditions, your doctor will need to conduct blood and other tests. If your doctor suspects you have MS, you may need:

It’s unlikely that you have both Lyme disease and MS, but it’s possible. Some of Lyme disease’s symptoms can mimic those of MS. It can also follow a relapse-remittance course, where symptoms come and go.

If your history and medical results suggest either condition, your doctor may decide to try antibiotic therapy to see if there’s an improvement in your symptoms. Once they fully determine your condition, you’ll begin a treatment and management plan.

If you have Lyme disease or MS, it’s important to seek medical advice right away. Despite the different outlooks for Lyme and MS, early diagnosis and treatment for either condition is imperative to your overall health.

Generally, Lyme disease is a treatable condition that requires antibiotic therapy. Some, even after antibiotic therapy, may experience chronic Lyme disease and require different courses of treatment.

People with MS can be treated with one or more potential treatments. These aim to speed the recovery from attacks, slow the progression of the disease, and manage symptoms. The treatment will be aimed at and tailored to your specific type of MS. Unfortunately, there’s no current cure for MS.