top of page

Short and Long Term Disability for Lyme Disease

Blackleged ticks can cause Lyme Disease, which may result in a long term disability claim

Long term disability insurance companies can be skeptical of Lyme disease or Post-Treatment Lyme Disease disability claims.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection spread by blacklegged ticks. It can cause symptoms such as fever, headache, and fatigue. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause more serious complications, including heart problems, arthritis, and cognitive impairment. Many people who are diagnosed with Lyme disease will develop some form of disability, either during the acute infection or post-infection.

The CDC estimates that about 400,000 Americans contract Lyme disease each year. As serious as the condition is, insurance companies are often skeptical of Lyme disease disability claims, especially when symptoms last beyond the expected recovery period.

Short and/or long term disability insurance benefits may be available for those who experience severe Lyme disease symptoms. In this article, we’ll explain the best strategies for filing a Lyme disease short or long term disability claim.

Lyme Disease Symptoms and Treatment

Lyme disease can cause a variety of serious symptoms, including but not limited to:

  • Widespread muscle, nerve, and/or bone pain

  • Arthritis

  • Chronic headaches

  • Skin rashes

  • Irregular heartbeat/heart palpitations

  • Dizziness and lightheadedness

  • Facial palsy

  • Fatigue

  • Cognitive impairment (inability to concentrate, stunted attention span, memory problems, etc.)

Lyme disease symptoms will typically worsen if the disease goes untreated for an extended period of time.

There is no singular diagnostic test for Lyme disease. Most diagnoses are made by assessing the patient’s symptoms, exposure to ticks, and through a blood test that determines the presence of antibodies. Antibodies can only be detected weeks after the initial infection, so the test can only diagnose a patient if they have had the infection for a lengthy period of time. On the other hand, if a patient waits too long to seek treatment, the antibodies may no longer be present in the blood.

Lyme disease is treatable, typically through an antibiotic such as Doxycycline. The dosage and length of course for the antibiotic will depend on the nature and severity of the patient’s Lyme disease symptoms.

Post-Treatment Lyme Disease

Lyme Disease symptoms may persist causing long term disability

Even though most Lyme disease patients respond well to antibiotics, there are cases of symptoms persisting past treatment. The lasting symptoms of Lyme disease are known as Post-Treatment Lyme Disease, or “Chronic Lyme.” Post-Treatment Lyme Disease can include a number of enduring symptoms affecting different bodily systems, including:

Neurologic Lyme Disease: This occurs when Lyme disease bacteria attacks the peripheral or central nervous systems. Common symptoms of Neurologic Lyme Disease include facial palsy, neuropathy/tingling in the extremities (arms and legs), and chronic headache.

Lyme Arthritis: Lyme disease bacteria can affect the joint tissue of a patient and cause ongoing arthritis. Lyme arthritis causes swelling and pain in the joints, including the knees, shoulders, hips, and wrists. This arthritis does not always resolve with antibiotic treatment and may become a permanent condition, especially if the original Lyme disease infection was not diagnosed and treated in a timely manner.

Lyme Carditis: Lyme disease bacteria can infect the heart, causing serious cardiovascular complications. Symptoms of Lyme Carditis include dysautonomia, fainting, lightheadedness, chest pain, and irregular heart activity such as palpitations. The cardiac damage caused by a Lyme disease infection may persist even after antibiotic treatment.

Little is understood about why some who contract with Lyme disease end up suffering from Post-Treatment Lyme Disease, though it has been speculated that immunologic factors can cause symptoms to be resistant to antibiotics. There are no known cures for Post-Treatment Lyme Disease. Treatment options will depend on the presenting symptoms of the patient.

Inability to Work Due to Lyme Disease

The symptoms of Lyme disease and Post-Treatment Lyme Disease can result in an inability to work, either for a period of months or on a permanent basis, depending on the individual.

For example, you may suffer from physical ailments caused by your Lyme disease such as muscle pain and chronic headaches. It can be too difficult to keep up with the required duties of your occupation, whether they involve sitting at a desk for extended periods, traveling for business purposes, or walking through an office.

Cognitive impairment can also occur as a result of Lyme disease. There is a higher risk of cognitive effects if you are diagnosed with Neurologic Lyme. Your Lyme disease may cause cognitive symptoms such as a shortened attention span or an inability to concentrate. As a result, you may become disabled on a cognitive basis due to your Lyme disease if your job requires you to perform tasks demanding high executive function. For example, you may no longer be able to read lengthy documents, participate in meetings, or keep up with extensive electronic communications.

How Insurance Companies Evaluate Lyme Disease Disability Claims

As mentioned above, insurance companies can be skeptical of Lyme disease or Post-Treatment Lyme Disease disability claims. This is because Lyme Disease symptoms, especially outside of the expected recovery period, can be difficult to prove with objective evidence. Common Lyme disease symptoms such as fatigue, chronic pain, and headaches are considered “self-reported” and subjective. In this context, subjective means that the patient reports the symptoms, but there are few tests that can provide concrete evidence of their existence. Subsequently, your insurance company may accuse you of malingering or exaggerating your condition.

In addition to proving the medical basis of your Lyme disease disability, your insurance company will require you to prove that you cannot work in your occupation because of your symptoms. This means you must connect the dots for your insurance company between your Lyme disease and your inability to work.

In this section, we’ll discuss ways to prove your Lyme disease on a medical and vocational basis.

Proving Your Lyme Disease Diagnosis and Symptoms

As discussed above, there is not one straightforward diagnostic test for Lyme disease. One common early sign of Lyme disease is erythema migrans. Erythema migrans is a skin rash caused by the tick bite which resembles a “bull’s eye” due to its rings of redness. If you sought medical treatment for this rash, you will have strong supporting medical evidence of your Lyme disease diagnosis.

Your doctor will also most likely test you for the presence of antibodies created by a Lyme disease infection. If you do test positive for these antibodies, you will have further objective medical evidence of your Lyme disease infection.

Of course, not everyone catches their Lyme disease early enough to document an erythema migrans rash, and the testing for antibodies is not always conclusive. For example, you may not have developed the antibodies yet at the time of testing, or you may have waited too long and the antibodies are no longer prese