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Lyme Disease

Initially students with Lyme disease may have flu like symptoms, fever and fatigue. As the illness progresses, symptoms such as heart palpitations, migratory joint and muscle pain, severe headaches, neurological problems (e.g. meningitis, Bell's palsy), and central nervous problems can impact memory and cognition.

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is caused by the spirochetal bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and it is transmitted to humans by the "bites" of certain kinds of ticks. Early in the illness Lyme disease can be confused with the flu, but as the disease progresses it can lead to cardiac, musculoskeletal, neurological, or other system involvement. Patients with chronic Lyme disease often experience severe headaches, fatigue, pain, insomnia, and memory problems. Symptoms include the following:

  • Chronic joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis), particularly of the knee
  • Neurological symptoms, such as facial palsy and neuropathy
  • Cognitive defects, such as impaired memory
  • Heart rhythm irregularities
  • Headaches
  • Meningitis
  • Migrating joint or muscle pain
  • Enlarged lymph glands
  • Numbness or tingling of the extremities
  • Stiff neck
  • Fever
  • Severe fatigue
  • Neurological disorders (disorientation; confusion; dizziness; short-term memory loss; inability to concentrate, finish sentences or follow conversations; mental "fog")

Observing Lyme Disease in the Classroom

Faculty might observe the following characteristics in students with Lyme disease:

  • May be absent more often than other students
  • May experience seizures
  • May exhibit anxious behavior
  • May drop items or have tremors
  • May experience memory problems intermittently


Related Functional Characteristics

Dietary Needs : People with Lyme disease may need to avoid certain foods that can aggravate symptoms.

Fatigue (Cognitive) : Students with Lyme disease often experience cognitive fatigue as a result of medication side effects.

Fatigue (Physical) : Physical fatigue is a major symptom of Lyme disease. Students also may experience fatigue due to insomnia, poor sleep quality or disrupted sleep, or medication side effects.

Numbness : Students with Lyme disease may experience numbness due to peripheral neuropathy impacting hands, arms, feet, or speech.

Pain Management : Students with Lyme disease may experience chronic or episodic pain in the muscles, joints, nerves or bones.

Seizures : Strong antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease can cause seizures especially when the Lyme disease impacts the neurological system.

Susceptibility to Infection : Susceptibility to infections is one of the long term effects of Lyme disease.

The Building Accepting Campus Communities (BACC) project was funded by the US Department of Education Office of Secondary Education grant #P333A080070-09. The University of Nebraska does not discriminate based on gender, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national or ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.