Lyme Disease - Symptoms

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What were the symptoms you experienced with Lyme disease? Did you think it was something else?

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What are symptoms and signs of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease affects different areas of the body in varying degrees as it progresses. The site where the tick bites the body is where the bacteria enter through the skin. Days to weeks later, as the bacteria spread in the skin away from the initial tick bite, the infection causes an expanding reddish rash that is often associated with "flu-like" symptoms. Later, it can produce abnormalities in the joints, heart, and nervous system.

Lyme disease is medically described in three phases as: (1) early localized disease with skin inflammation; (2) early disseminated disease with heart and nervous system involvement, including palsies and meningitis; and (3) late disease featuring motor and sensory nerve damage and brain inflammation as well as arthritis.

In the early phase of the illness, within days to weeks of the tick bite, the skin around the bite develops an expanding ring of unraised redness. There may be an outer ring of brighter redness with or without a central area of clearing, leading to a "bull's-eye" appearance. This classic initial rash is called "erythema migrans" (formerly called erythema chronicum migrans). Patients often can't recall the tick bite (the ticks can be as small as the periods in this paragraph). Also, they may not have the identifying rash to signal the doctor. The rash may or may not itch. More than one in four patients never even develop a rash. The redness of the skin is often accompanied by generalized fatigue, muscle and joint stiffness and pain, swollen lymph nodes ("swollen glands"), headache, and less often fever, resembling symptoms of a virus infection.

The redness resolves, without treatment, in about a month. Weeks to months after the initial redness of the skin the bacteria and their effects spread throughout the body. Subsequently, disease in the joints, heart, and nervous system can occur.

The later phases of Lyme disease can affect the heart, causing inflammation of the heart muscle. This can result in abnormal heart rhythms and heart failure. The nervous system signs can include facial muscle paralysis (Bell's palsy), abnormal sensation due to disease of peripheral nerves (peripheral neuropathy), meningitis, and confusion. Arthritis, or inflammation in the joints, begins with swelling, stiffness, and pain. Usually, only one or a few joints become affected, most commonly the knees. The arthritis of Lyme disease can look like many other types of inflammatory arthritis and can become chronic.

Researchers have also found that anxiety and depression occur with an increased rate in people with Lyme disease. This is another important aspect of the evaluation and management of this condition.

Return to Lyme Disease

See what others are saying

Comment from: ScienceGal, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 23

I had pains in my swollen fingers on Saturday. Sunday morning I felt my face numb on one side and my knees ached really badly. I felt stiff and sore all over. Monday morning I woke up with a real bad headache. It felt like my brain was swelling and I felt sick to my stomach by afternoon. Monday night I took a warm bath and found a tick in the water. I could barely move my stiff neck. I didn't find a bit location on my body, but kept the tick to show my doctor. Tuesday morning I saw my general physician. She was very reluctant to give me antibiotics until the test came back positive 7 to 10 days later. So the Lyme's disease symptoms came on very fast and strong after contact.

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Comment from: Premila, (Patient) Published: January 07

My symptoms started with lower back pain which progressed to pain on my left side shooting down my leg and left arm, neck and shoulder. As time progressed, I started feeling ill, fatigued, and I thought it was my thyroid. I feel really ill. My arms and legs feel heavy, and I have body pains, joint and muscle pain. Sometimes I wake up in the morning with stiff fingers and arm pain which feels like arthritis. My doctor refuses to test me foe Lyme disease. I had a field control therapy test and the practitioner said I tested positive for Lyme infection. I feel sick all the time and sleepy. I am unable to move much around the house and unable to go to work. Reading your stories gives me some encouragement that maybe there is some hope for me. I feel like I am dying.

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