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Lyme Carditis

Lyme carditis is a bacterial infection of the heart caused by Lyme disease.

The bacteria hinders your heart's electrical system, as it enters the heart tissue and can interfere with electrical signals, causing a condition called heart block.

Symptoms of Lyme carditis include lightheadedness, fainting, heart palpitations, chest pains, and shortness of breath.

Treatment options include antibiotics and/or a temporary pacemaker.

Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

What Is Lyme Carditis?

Lyme carditis is a rare infection that occurs when Lyme bacteria enters your heart tissue. The bacteria affects your heart's electrical system.

Your heartbeat slows, and electrical signals have trouble traveling from your heart's upper chambers to the lower chambers. Doctors call this condition heart block.

Types of heart block

There are three degrees of heart block:

  • First degree (mild) — electrical signals reach the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles), but they're slower than usual.
  • Second degree (moderate) — electrical signals don't fully reach the bottom chambers of the heart.
  • Third degree (severe) — electrical signals don't reach heart's bottom chambers at all.

Lyme carditis causes

The bacteria that enters your heart comes from Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that spreads most often through black-legged tick bites.

Lyme Carditis Symptoms and Diagnosis

Lyme carditis symptoms

Symptoms of Lyme carditis include:

  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Heart palpitations

These symptoms can also appear alongside symptoms of Lyme disease such as:

  • Fever
  • Headache or body aches
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Rash (called erythema migrans)

Diagnosing Lyme carditis

Your doctor may order imaging scans and other tests to diagnose Lyme carditis and check your heart's functioning.

Tests include:

Lyme carditis prevention

The best way to prevent Lyme carditis is to avoid Lyme disease.

  • Wear pants and long sleeves when in the woods or areas where ticks are common.
  • Use tick repellent.
  • Perform tick checks.

When removed quickly, the likelihood of getting Lyme disease from a tick is low.

Lyme Carditis Treatment

Taking antibiotics for two to three weeks will treat the bacterial infection. Most people recover from the Lyme carditis infection with antibiotic treatment.

Lyme carditis symptoms resolve within one to six weeks.

In some cases, you may need a temporary pacemaker implanted to correct the heart rate.