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    Lyme Disease: What To Know This Season

    What are the symptoms of Lyme disease? continued...

    The rash expands gradually over a period of days and can grow to about 12 inches across, according to the CDC. It may feel warm to the touch, but rarely itches or is painful, and it can appear on any part of the body.

    As infection progresses, symptoms can include:

    • Severe headache or neck stiffness
    • Additional rashes on other areas of the body
    • Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees
    • Loss of muscle tone or “drooping” on one or both sides of the face.
    • Heart palpitation or an irregular heartbeat
    • Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
    • Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet

    How is Lyme disease diagnosed?

    Doctors diagnose Lyme disease based on symptoms and a history of tick exposure. Two-step blood tests are helpful, the CDC says, if used correctly. However, the accuracy of the test depends on the disease stage; in the first few weeks of infection, the test may be negative, as antibodies take a few weeks to develop. Tests aren’t recommended for patients who don’t have Lyme disease symptoms.

    How is Lyme disease treated?

    The antibiotics amoxicillin and tetracycline are used, usually for 10-21 days, says CDC epidemiologist Paul Mead, MD.

    Other antibiotics that may be used include cefuroxime and doxycycline.

    If you're treated early in the infection stage, a full recovery is likely.

    How prevalent is Lyme disease?

    About 30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the CDC each year, the agency says, but that doesn’t reflect every case that’s diagnosed. The CDC estimates about 329,000 cases of Lyme disease occur each year.

    Infection is more common in males up to age 15 and between the ages of 40 and 60, says Alan Taege, MD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Infectious Disease. “These are people who are likelier to play outside, and go camping, hunting, and hiking,” he says.