5 Lyme Disease Symptoms
Do you know how to recognize Lyme disease symptoms?
If you don’t know what to look for, it’s easy to miss these symptoms. However, this disease can cause major issues if you don’t catch it early. It’s important to learn the Lyme disease symptoms so you can keep yourself and your family safe.
In this essential guide, we’ll go over everything you need to know to recognize the onset of Lyme disease. Keep reading to learn the warning signs.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is not well-understood by everyone. It’s good to educate yourself early – if you encounter Lyme disease symptoms, you’ll be glad to have this knowledge.
A bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi causes this disease. Tick bites transmit Lyme disease: specifically, the bites of deer ticks and black-legged ticks. These ticks live in wooded and grassy areas. Lyme is often associated with the eastern U.S., but it’s found across the country and even in over sixty countries worldwide.
It usually takes about three to 30 days after a bite for the symptoms to occur. There are a wide variety of symptoms that change depending on what stage the infection is at.
Anyone of any age can get this disease. Children and older adults are most susceptible, though, as well as people who spend a lot of time outdoors like park rangers and firefighters.
Lyme Disease Diagnosis
Diagnosing Lyme disease is difficult, and it often gets misdiagnosed as something else. In fact, experts think that the actual number of Lyme disease cases is much higher than the number of reported cases.
Part of the problem with diagnosing this disease is that it can affect any part of the body. The nervous system and brain, joints, muscles, and heart are among the areas that are commonly affected. Because of this variety, it’s easy to mistake Lyme for a host of other diseases.
It’s often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and multiple sclerosis. Lyme disease even gets misdiagnosed as psychiatric disorders, such as depression.
How Lyme Disease is Transmitted
Immature ticks, called nymphs, are the most common Lyme disease transmitters. These nymphs are the size of a small seed, and their bite doesn’t hurt. Many people will never know that they had a nymph bite – unless Lyme disease symptoms show up later.
If the tick isn’t noticed, it will attach to a person and feed for multiple days. The longer it’s attached, the more likely it is that Lyme disease will be transmitted. These ticks can carry other diseases, too.
Some experts, like Dr. Sponaugle of Sponaugle Wellness, believe human-to-human transmissions of this disease are possible. In this case, a pregnant woman can be infected and transmit the disease to the unborn fetus. Occasionally, this results in a stillbirth.
Now, let’s take a look at the most common symptoms of this disease.
1. Expanding Rash
The first and most common symptom experienced by people who contract this disease is an expanding rash.
This rash isn’t always present, but it appears in most cases. It almost always comes from the site of the tick bite and radiates outward.
Sometimes, the rash will look like a solid red patch. Other times, a ring of normal skin surrounds a spot in the middle, and a large red rash rings the whole thing, forming a bulls-eye shape.
The rash usually appears about a week or two after the disease has been transmitted. It’s generally about six inches in diameter, and stays for three to five weeks.
Many people don’t notice the rash immediately, because it may not be itchy or painful. However, sometimes the expanding rash is warm to the touch.
These rashes often appear in hard-to-see places, making it even more difficult to catch them. Ticks often bite at creases of the body, such as the groin, armpit, behind the knee, or back of the neck. If a rash only appears in one of these places, it might go unnoticed.
Sometimes rashes show up on other parts of the body after the initial rash has cleared. Occasionally, these rashes will only show up on other parts of the body, and not where the bite actually occurred.
2. Pain and Chills
The next stage of symptoms often mimics the flu or a cold.
People might experience fever, chills, pain in the joints, and fatigue. However, these symptoms aren’t usually severe, and many people will brush them off as an ordinary illness.
This, unfortunately, means that many people don’t seek treatment soon enough, because they don’t realize that these can also be Lyme disease symptoms. If you live in an area where this disease is prevalent, and might have been exposed to a tick bite recently, you shouldn’t ignore these common symptoms.
Sometimes, these symptoms are brief at first, but they’ll often come back as the disease progresses.
3. Stiffness and Numbness
Later in the onset of Lyme disease, fatigue can become more severe. At this point, it’s often coupled with neck stiffness and aches, and numbness.
This numbness or tingling usually affects the extremities. Facial palsy, or paralysis, can also happen.
4. Severe Pain
It can take weeks, months, or even years for Lyme disease symptoms to become severe.
Later on, those infected with the disease may experience intense headaches and joint swelling or arthritis. If the disease affects the heart, cardiac abnormalities may occur. One the disease gets to this stage, it can cause far more problems.
5. Cognitive Disorders
The worst cases of Lyme disease can result in cognitive disorders, because the disease can affect the brain as well as the nervous system.
This can manifest as confusion, disorientation, and dizziness. People whose nervous systems are affected by Lyme disease may have short-term memory loss, and struggle to follow conversations or to concentrate. Other times, the disease simply manifests as a mental “fog” with no clear cause.
Preventing Lyme Disease
It can be almost impossible to prevent Lyme disease entirely. However, if you know what symptoms to look out for, you can catch the disease in its early stages and prevent complications later on.
Do you or someone you know need treatment for Lyme disease? Get in touch with us to find out what we can do.