Bartonella Toes and Lyme Disease

By Jana

May 24, 2023

2 Coments

What Is This Painful Rash on My Toes?

Bartonella toes are one of the weird and randomly bizarre symptoms that left me feeling like a human experiment when I was in treatment for Lyme disease. There may be a more scientific term for the painful rash on my toes, but being that I’m not a doctor, I simply refer to them as Bartonella toes. That is also what my doctor termed them so that’s how I came to refer to them. Technically, “Bartonella toes” are a symptom of a Lyme disease co-infection originating from the Bartonella bacteria. From what I understand, this tingling rash on my toes was a form of peripheral neuropathy. My Bartonella toes emerged within my first month or so of treatment when I was taking the antibiotic doxycycline.

Icy Hot Tingles

When you are battling a chronic illness every new symptom feels like the end of the world. It certainly felt that way when a strange rash emerged on the tips of my toes. At first it didn’t hurt, it simply appeared as irritated-looking red spots. But eventually they began to feel cold and tingly. I soothed this sensation by wearing tight fitting, warm Smartwool socks.

Within a few days the pain consumed my little toes. It felt like they were on fire yet freezing at the same time. And they were, in fact, like tiny icicles to the touch. The sensation was something akin to slathering your toes in Icy Hot, like way more than you would ever need or want to apply.

Bartonella rash

That whole summer I had to hide from the sun because I was taking the antibiotic doxycycline. Now, with this rash, I felt like the mythical vampire who would burst into flames if the sun touched her. The sun seemed to ignite my poor little toes afire.

Hot water was similarly painful. At the time, I was taking hot Epsom salt baths regularly to assist with detox. I was moving pretty slow in those early days of treatment, frail from the medicine attacking the bacteria in my body. The swift movement I needed to perform in order to keep my toes from lighting on fire in the hot water was quite challenging. It did make for a bit of comic relief though. Eventually, this furious rash spread to my fingers. Although, I don’t remember my fingers ever hurting quite as bad as my toes.

How Can a Little Rash Be So Traumatizing?

Sometimes I felt guilty for complaining about these random, weird symptoms. How bad can Bartonella toes be that I need to write an entire blog post about it? The truth is, when you’re suffering from Lyme disease the symptoms stack up and become overwhelming.

When my Bartonella toes first began to develop, my list of other symptoms looked something like this…lethargic, nauseous, exhausted, grumpy, chills, low grade fever, dizzy, faint, racing heart, bad diarrhea, difficulty walking, out of breath, lightheaded, discolored tongue, difficulty speaking, depressed, etc., etc.

My point is, that when my Bartonella toes first began to ache, it was just one more wretched symptom piled on top of a mountain of wretched symptoms. For those of you suffering from Lyme disease, you already understand what I’m talking about. I take the time to belabor this point for any of my readers who may be an angelic soul caring for a friend or loved one who is battling this disease.

When my Bartonella toes began to spread, my heart sank. It was yet one more symptom to add to an already long list. My body already felt so weak and alien that I sank into myself thinking, “now what?” The shear gravity of my ailments left me feeling frighted and overwhelmed. I imagine that if I were to develop a rash on my toes today I would be concerned. “What could have caused this? Will it get worse? Is it contagious?” However, when you’re treating a chronic illness, another inexplicable symptom can feel catastrophic.

How Do I Soothe My Bartonella Toes?

 If you google this question, you will likely find no solution. In fact, it’s very hard to find any information regarding ‘Bartonella toes’. I wish I had a great answer for you. My solution was to wear tight fitting socks. The pressure from the socks seemed to alleviate the discomfort and helped to melt the tiny icicles that my toes seemed to have become. I also vaguely recall my doctor suggesting I apply olive oil  to my toes. Olive oil, especially a good quality olive oil, has amazing powers including anti-inflammatory properties. I also worked hard to keep my toes out of the sun and away from hot water.

Obviously, soothing the discomfort is important but even more important is getting the Bartonella diagnosed and treated. Make sure to mention any sensation of numbness, tingling or rash to your Lyme literate doctor. Bartonella is a dangerous co-infection of Lyme disease and should be treated with the appropriate antibiotics.


  1. Bartonella toes hit home for me. I developed neuropathy in my feet, leg, arms and hands as a reaction to the Disulfram I was taking for Lymes. I had been on the medication for about 15 months and the symptoms came on suddenly. It was April 2021 on the first day of my vacation. My feet were painful, they felt swollen, no balance. I had to sleep with my feet out from under the covers. I had been in treatment for Lymes for four years and the symptoms ran the gamut. Lymes affects everything in your body and each person has a different variation depending on where the Lymes attack. January 2021, the neuropathy is almost gone. I can feel my feet, the floor, the carpet without pain.

    Jana, your blogs paint the disease of Lymes as it it. Not pretty. Takes courage, persistence, patience, and faith to finally reach remission. Poignant glimpses of your journey. The day I felt the floor and the carpet with my feet I told everyone. I was so excited. It’s the little victories that help us move through the healing journey.

    I’m glad you are sharing your story. You are moving through and releasing as you go. You are giving home and compassion. You are a warrioress.

    1. Thank you Deborah for sharing your experience with “Bartonella toes”. I can relate to needing to sleep with your feet out from under the covers. I can also share in that feeling of wanting to tell everyone how awesome it feels to be released from the constant nagging of painful, swollen feet. And, thank you for your kind words of encouragement.
      Relish in the joy of walking on soft carpet barefoot, my friend.

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