The most common heart disorder caused by Lyme disease is Lyme carditis (heart muscle inflammation).
Lyme carditis might happen in the second stage of the disease, when the bacteria has entered the blood stream. This is known as a disseminated disease. In layman’s terms: an illness that has spread from its origin to other parts of the body. The bacteria entering the blood stream is often combined with an irregular heart beat and/or an interruption of the conducting system between the atria and ventricles. When the conduction is seriously interrupted, the beating of the heart might slow down. When this happens, a patient might faint or experience tightness of the chest. Also, heart failure and chest pains are known to occur.
Heart problems caused by Lyme disease are rare
Heart problems caused by Lyme disease don’t often happen, and therefore, are difficult to recognize by doctors. It is important to make a timely connection between the heart problems and, for example, a tick bite or a bullseye rash. When this is recognized quickly, aggravation of the complaints can be prevented, and therefore, the placement of, for example, a pacemaker will less likely be needed.
This kind of serious complaints are very rare. It is also still unclear why some people develop these symptoms. That is why, the RVIM together with the Lyme centres of the AMC, Radboud UMC, and Gelre hospitals research whether a serious course of Lyme disease can be explained by characteristics of the immune system or the kind of Lyme bacteria.