Lyme disease results from the bite of an infected tick. It can cause many symptoms, including a bull’s-eye rash and joint pain, and may result in post-Lyme disease syndrome.
Lyme disease was first recognized in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, in 1975.
It’s an infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, in rare cases, Borrelia mayonii.
According to the
Keep reading to learn more about the symptoms and treatments for Lyme disease and how to identify a tick bite.
Lyme disease is typically classified into
- (1) Early localized: This stage occurs 1–28 days after the tick bite.
- (2) Early disseminated: This stage may develop 3–12 weeks after the tick bite.
- (3) Late disseminated: This is the most advanced stage of Lyme disease. It may take months or years to develop.
Symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on the stage of infection.
That said, the severity, progression, and presentation of symptoms may vary depending on the individual.
For example, symptoms of stages 1 and 2 may overlap. Or, you may not experience any stage 1 symptoms but experience later symptoms.
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease usually start
One of the earliest signs of the disease is a bull’s-eye rash, also known as an erythema migrans.
People with lighter skin may have a rash that’s solid red, while people with darker skin may have a rash that resembles a bruise. It may be warm to the touch, but it’s not painful and doesn’t itch.
Other symptoms commonly seen in stage 1 of Lyme disease
Later signs and symptoms of Lyme disease
Stages 2 and 3 of Lyme disease are characterized by systemic infection. This means the infection has spread throughout your body, including to other organs.
- abnormal heart rhythm, which can be caused by Lyme carditis
- neurologic conditions, such as facial palsies and cranial neuropathy
- multiple erythema migrans lesions on your body
- numbness, tingling, and pain in your hands and feet
- severe headaches
- neck stiffness
- arthritis of one or more large joints, typically the knee
- encephalopathy, which may cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental fogginess, problems with following conversations, and sleep disturbance
It’s important to note that you may experience later symptoms of Lyme disease without experiencing earlier symptoms, such as a bull’s eye rash.
Lyme disease symptoms in children
Children generally experience the same Lyme disease symptoms and progression as adults.
That said, a
If your child seems to be acting differently and can’t explain why or what they’re feeling, speak with a doctor. These changes could be a sign of many conditions, including Lyme disease.
Lyme disease may be difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions.
A healthcare professional will first perform a medical history and physical examination to look for erythema migrans and other symptoms characteristic of Lyme disease.
It’s important to note that blood tests are most reliable only a few weeks after the initial infection. This is when antibodies are present.
Some at-home Lyme disease testing kits are also available. These may be beneficial if you’ve recently been bitten by a tick or you recently spent time in an area where ticks are common.
However, it’s best to see a doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms of Lyme disease.
If you need help finding a primary care doctor, then check out our FindCare tool.
Tick testing for Lyme disease
Some commercial laboratories test ticks for Lyme disease. However, the
- Commercial laboratories that offer tick testing aren’t required to have the same stringent quality control standards as those for clinical diagnostic laboratories.
- If the tick tests positive for a disease-causing organism, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have Lyme disease.
- A negative result could lead you to the false assumption that you don’t have an infection. You could have been bitten by a different tick that transmitted Lyme disease.
- If you have Lyme disease, you’ll probably start showing the symptoms before you get the tick test results, and you shouldn’t wait to start treatment.
Treatment for Lyme disease will depend on the progression of the infection.
Lyme disease is best treated in the early stages. Treatment for early localized disease is a
Medications used to treat Lyme disease include:
If Lyme disease has progressed beyond stage 1 or affects your circulatory or central nervous systems, a doctor may prescribe intravenous (IV) antibiotics. This will then be followed up with an oral regimen. The complete course of treatment usually takes 14–28 days.
If you experience abnormal heart rhythm or heart block, a doctor may also
Lyme arthritis, a late-stage symptom of Lyme disease, is also treated with oral antibiotics for
Ticks infected with the bacterium B. burgdorferi can attach to any part of your body. They’re more commonly found in moist areas of your body that are hard to see, such as the scalp, armpits, and groin area.
The infected tick must be attached to your body for at least
Most Lyme disease infectious are caused by immature ticks, called nymphs. They feed during the spring and summer. Nymphs are more likely to transmit Lyme disease
Is Lyme disease contagious?
Living in a state with a high prevalence of Lyme disease may increase your risk of being bitten by an infected tick. According to the
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
People who work outdoors
- park or wildlife management
Most tick bites happen in the summer when ticks are most active and people spend more time outside.
However, it’s possible to get Lyme disease from tick bites in early fall, and even in late winter if the weather is unseasonably warm.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the prevention of Lyme disease and ticks.
Can I prevent Lyme disease?
Yes, you can prevent Lyme disease by protecting yourself from ticks. This is because the infection is transmitted through bites from infected ticks.
How can I prevent tick bites?
Some ways to prevent tick bites may
- wearing long pants and long-sleeve shirts when outdoors
- protecting your clothing with permethrin
- using insect repellents, such as DEET products
- using natural insect repellants, such as oil of lemon eucalyptus
- checking yourself and your pets after being outside in areas with brush, long grass, and wood
How do I spot a tick?
Checking yourself for ticks in the shower or bath is important after you’ve come in from outside.
Other than that, check your clothes, especially the folds of your clothes, knowing that ticks can be very small and hard to spot. Running your hands through your hair is also a good idea.
What should I do if a tick bites me?
If a tick bites you, it’s important to remove it as soon as possible.
- Use a pair of tweezers to grab the tick.
- Steadily pull upward, being careful not to twist the tweezers (this may cause the mouth parts of the tick to break off and stay stuck in the skin).
- After removing the tick, clean the bite area with soap and water, or rubbing alcohol.
- Don’t crush the tick. Dispose of it by putting it in alcohol, flushing it down the toilet, or putting it in a sealed bag and in the trash.
The majority of people who receive a diagnosis of Lyme disease will recover within
Symptoms of post-Lyme disease syndrome are similar to those that occur in the earlier stages of the condition, such as:
- difficulty sleeping
- aching joints or muscles
- pain or swelling in your large joints, such as your knees, shoulders, or elbows
- difficulty concentrating and short-term memory problems
- speech problems
Treatment is primarily focused on easing pain and discomfort. Most people recover, but it can take months or years.
Does Lyme disease go away?
In most cases, Lyme disease can go away with early diagnosis and treatment. However, if you start treatment in the later stages, you may experience long-term complications like damage to your joints.
Can you live a normal life with Lyme disease?
Most people can live a normal life after receiving treatment for Lyme disease. However, up to
What happens when Lyme disease goes untreated?
If left untreated, Lyme disease may progress and cause serious neurological and rheumatoid complications. These may include facial palsy, extreme fatigue, meningitis, and arthritis, among others. It’s important to get treated as early as possible if you have Lyme disease.
Can you recover from Lyme on your own?
Antibiotics are needed to treat Lyme disease. Left untreated, the infection can progressively get worse and lead to more serious long-term complications.
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a tick bite from an infected tick.
If you find a tick on your body, it’s important to properly remove it as soon as possible. Then, monitor the tick bite area. If a bull’s eye rash appears, speak with a healthcare professional as soon as you can.
Early diagnosis and treatment can help treat Lyme disease.