CDC: Don't Report "Chronic Lyme Disease"

CDC: Don't Report "Chronic Lyme Disease"

The Washington Post reports, June 15, “Dangerous unproven treatments for ‘chronic Lyme disease’ are on the rise.” According to the Post, patients are being “prescribed dangerous and often expensive treatments that do not work,” citing a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
According to the CDC report, the term “chronic Lyme disease” is a misnomer “… used by some health care providers as a diagnosis for various constitutional, musculoskeletal, and neuropsychiatric symptoms.”
The “dangerous unproven treatments” the Post refers to include long courses of intravenous (IV) antibiotics, IV infusions of hydrogen peroxide, immunoglobulin therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, electromagnetic frequency treatments, garlic supplements, colloidal silver, and stem cell transplants.
“Studies have not shown that such treatments lead to substantial long-term improvement for patients, and they can be harmful,” the CDC report says. The report includes documented cases of septic shock, ostemoyelitis, Clostridium difficile colitis, and paraspinal abscess resulting from long-term IV antibiotics.

Recognize the Symptoms

Lyme disease is caused by infection with the spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi, spread through the bite of infected ticks. Early signs of infection include erythema migrans (an erythematous skin lesion with a bull’s-eye or homogeneous appearance), fever, headache, and fatigue. The recommended treatment for Lyme disease is generally a 2–4-week course of antibiotics.

Coding Lyme Disease

In the ICD-10-CM codebook, Lyme disease is classified in Chapter 1: Certain Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, category A69 Other spirochetal infections:
A69.2 Lyme disease
Erythema chronicum migrans due to Borrelia burgdorferi
A69.20 Lyme disease, unspecified
Below it are codes for conditions caused by Lyme disease, such as meningitis (A69.21), other neurologic disorders (A69.22), and arthritis (A69.23).
According to Christina Nelson, a medical epidemiologist and author of the CDC report released June 15, neither the CDC nor the National Institutes of Health recommends using the diagnosis “chronic Lyme disease,” the Post reports.
Nelson also warns against posers. “Clinicians who call themselves ‘Lyme literate’ are often self-anointed; there is no special training program and no requirement to be board certified in infectious disease.”

Marzec NS, Nelson C, Waldron PR, et al. Serious Bacterial Infections Acquired During Treatment of Patients Given a Diagnosis of Chronic Lyme Disease — United States. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:607–609. DOI:

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Renee Dustman, BS, AAPC MACRA Proficient, is managing editor - content & editorial at AAPC. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Media Communications - Journalism. Renee has more than 30 years' experience in journalistic reporting, print production, graphic design, and content management. Follow her on Twitter @dustman_aapc.

2 Responses to “CDC: Don't Report "Chronic Lyme Disease"”

  1. Julie says:

    My daughter had chronic Lyme disease and when treated properly with antibiotics, herbals and homeopathic medicine she recovered. Yes. Some treatments don’t work and harmful treatments must be stopped, but we must not leave patients to suffer and tell them that there is nothing wrong with them. This article is troubling to me as my daughter would not be walking today without practitioners who believe in “chronic Lyme Disease.”

  2. Mitch Hall says:

    I am a Hyperbaric Specialist. I have patients come to me with a variety of on and off-label conditions. Many times I have to turn people away who are under the impression that Hyperbarics will benefit their situation. It is in no way a cure-all or even a cure-a lot. Hyperbarics is viable in a few select cases. That being said, I have treated three patients over the last 4 years that came to me with complaints of the effects of their Lyme disease. I was skeptical with my first patient who insisted it would help her. I treated her for 3 weeks. She came to me one day, thanked me and said she would be back. I took that as she was tired of spending money for no reason. Eight or nine months later, that patient returned. She indicated the Lyme symptoms were back in full force. She wanted another course of Hyperbarics. This time, she said she felt much better after 2 weeks of treatments. This same scenario has repeated over the years with 2 more Lyme disease patients coming in for treatment. They come in a couple times per year for 2-3 weeks of treatment @ 3 days per week. In all three cases, they describe their chest problems going away and they attribute their feeling better to the “dying off” of the Lymes with Hyperbaric treatments. No one has suggested there is a complete cure or complete die off of the Lyme but these patients have made a believer out of me that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy provides much needed relief for their case of Lyme Disease..