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Understanding Lyme Disease -- Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The first sign of Lyme disease is usually a bull's-eye rash that begins from 3 to 30 days after the bite. This circular rash expands to several inches or more in diameter before disappearing after a few weeks. 

Be aware, however, that there's not always a rash, or the rash may look different than a bull's-eye shape.

Recommended Related to Arthritis

Treatments for Chronic Lyme Disease (PTLDS)

A bite from a bacteria-infected tick causes Lyme disease. If you get the disease, you might have lingering symptoms. Some people have ongoing pain and fatigue, says Afton Hassett, PsyD, principal investigator at the Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center at University of Michigan.  The continued symptoms are known as chronic Lyme disease, or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).

Read the Treatments for Chronic Lyme Disease (PTLDS) article > >

Other early symptoms -- with or without the rash -- may be flu-like feelings of fatigue, headache, fever, sore throat, chills, or body aches.

You may also have vague pains in the joints, without swelling. In about 60% of people who are not treated, this joint pain returns months to years later as painful arthritis, with swelling often in one or both knees. In about 10% to 20% of these cases, Lyme arthritis becomes chronic. Some patients also experience a complex range of other symptoms, including stiff neck, headaches, sensitivity to light, memory loss, mood changes, chronic fatigue, recurring rashes, paralysis of one or both sides of the face, disruption of heart rhythm, and areas of tingling or numbness.

In summary, general symptoms may include:

  • A circular, bull's-eye rash, often with a clear center, expanding to 8 inches or more and lasting 2 to 4 weeks
  • Any type of rash following a tick bite
  • Flu-like symptoms such as headache, fatigue, fever, chills, sore throat, and aching muscles and joints
  • Paralysis, most often of the face
  • Memory impairment
  • Random areas of tingling or numbness
  • Skin sensitivities
  • Stiff neck
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat, chest pain, or dizziness
  • Psychological changes, including depression

If untreated, you may develop a generalized, painful kind of arthritis, with swelling, weeks later.

 

See Your Doctor About Lyme Disease If:

You think you may have contracted Lyme disease, especially if you notice a bull's-eye rash or if you suddenly develop knee pain and swelling without previous injury or arthritis. Delaying treatment can result in more serious neurological symptoms that can be difficult and sometimes impossible to cure.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 23, 2014

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