TMJ Disorder and Lyme Disease have similar symptoms yet require very different treatments.
Your jaw hurts, maybe you've got a headache, your neck is stiff, and you're having trouble remembering things. After searching the internet, calling your friend-of-a-friend doctor, and briefly letting your mind wander to all the horrible possibilities, you sit breathless on the couch, just as confused as when you started.
It’s always wise to consider all the possibilities, but in the case of a TMD, it can be tricky to rule out Lyme Disease since the two present eerily similar symptoms. And misdiagnosis can be costly-- if Lyme Disease goes untreated, it can cause facial palsy or even death. Similarly, an improper Lyme diagnosis could land you on antibiotics that not only don’t cure your TMJ, but create new problems.
Symptoms of both TMD and Lyme Disease include:
- Neck stiffness
- Joint pain and swelling
- Facial and tongue pain
- Short-term memory loss
To distinguish a TMD, which is most often caused by jaw clenching and teeth grinding, look for:
- Ear pain and hearing loss
- Jaw clicking
To distinguish Lyme disease, which is caused by bacteria-infected ticks, look for:
- Erythema Migrans (EM) rash, or a bullseye pattern centered on the site of the tick bite
- Shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat (Lyme carditis).
- Flu-like symptoms including fever and chills
Believe it or not, we encounter this scenario quite often. Understanding the differences between the symptoms of a TMJ disorder and Lyme Disease will help you avoid misdiagnosis and make an educated decision about treatment options. Certainly check with your primary care physician and/or ENT specialist to confirm that it's Lyme Disease. If it’s a TMD, schedule a consultation with Dr. Stern and put your pain in the past.