A bullseye skin rash is one of the first symptoms of Lyme disease. However, it’s not the only sign that could indicate you may have developed this illness from an infected tick bite. There are a variety of symptoms you may experience, such as low-grade fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches, and joint pain, to name a few. Many people develop signs and symptoms three to 30 days after transmission, with the exception of few who have delayed onset.
How people are affected by Lyme disease varies for each individual, including the pattern and severity of the infection. Here are some common symptoms as it progresses.
Notice any of these symptoms? Contact us for a consultation.
Getting Lyme Disease: Understanding Transmission
Transmission takes place when an infected tick bites a human. In the United States, blacklegged ticks and western blacklegged ticks, or more commonly known as deer ticks, are responsible for the spread of the disease. In the U.S., Lyme disease has mostly been found in the northeastern, mid-Atlantic, northcentral, and Pacific Coast regions, although there are scattered and less-concentrated reports throughout the entire United States.
Blacklegged ticks are between the size of a sesame seed and a poppy seed and can go unnoticed for some time. This gives the tick an opportunity to attach in less visible areas of the body, such as the scalp, armpits, and groin. With bites in these lesser seen areas, you might not notice a rash. This leaves other symptoms, if any, to be the only indicator of Lyme disease.
Stages of Lyme Disease
There are several different stages of Lyme disease. It is progressive and can cause various symptoms, depending on how long you have been infected and where the infection has spread. Lyme disease can also go unnoticed as you may not be symptomatic at the onset of the infection. Additionally, the movement of the disease throughout the body is not always predictable, but with more research and experience by professionals, a loose pattern has been identified and more education is available.
Stage 1: Localized Lyme disease
The early stage of Lyme disease is considered one to four weeks after the infected bite. In this stage the symptoms can have a sudden onset, or a person can be non-symptomatic. If you notice a rash, this is usually the first sign of Lyme disease.
You may notice its signature red ring pattern at the site of infection. As the rash slowly expands over days, it can reach up to 12 inches across and remain flat to slightly raised. This often does not cause discomfort like itching or pain but may feel warm to the touch. As it expands, the rash often keeps its uniform bullseye appearance by clearing in the center and can remain present for up to several weeks.
Although the bullseye rash is the telltale sign of Lyme disease in stage 1, there other symptoms that may accompany or present by themselves shortly after an infected bite. Many times, flu-like symptoms are experienced such as, fever, chills, fatigue, and body aches. More standalone symptoms can also be experienced as well. These include:
- Neck stiffness
- Swollen Lymph nodes
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
Stage 2: Early Disseminated Infection
The second stage of Lyme disease is one to four months after the infected bite occurred. If the infection has not been treated in the early onset of symptoms, or if no symptoms were present, the Lyme spreads further throughout the body. The infection may affect direct organs such as the heart and skin, sometimes joints, or even move into the nervous system.
Chronic Headaches and Brain Fog
Some people may experience frequent headaches or have poor memory, slowed thinking, and lack of ability to concentrate in their day to day lives. Others may have continuous fainting without any other explanation. The Lyme disease itself is not to blame for affecting the brain. It is an effect of the chemicals produced by the body in response to the infection.
Pain and Numbness
Many times, stage 2 of Lyme disease will cause pain and weakness in specific areas of the body, or it can cause widespread pain. This discomfort can also be accompanied by numbness in a person’s extremities, the arms or the legs being the most common. You may experience temporary paralysis, also known as Bell’s palsy, that a person may experience.
When the heart is affected by Lyme disease, it is rare, but in some cases a serious heart condition may develop. The good news is that often people only experience an irregular heartbeat, known as heart palpitations. They’re typically not life-threatening but can still cause discomfort and alarm.
Stage 3: Persistent Lyme Disease
The last and most serious stage of Lyme disease, stage 3, occurs five months after the infected bite and beyond. If left untreated, or not effectively treated, the infection will cause long-term damage to the body, including the brain, joints, and nervous system. At this time, more debilitating symptoms set in. Unfortunately, those who were previously non-symptomatic or misdiagnosed may not find out they have Lyme disease until this final stage.
Symptoms experienced in this final stage may be persistent from the previous months or just begun surfacing. Symptoms experienced in stage 2, such as fatigue, memory, foggy headedness, inability to concentrate may increase in intensity. Numbness may become more widespread in addition to tingling in hands, feet, and back.
Another symptom known for persistent Lyme disease is arthritis. It shows in repetitive episodes of swelling, redness, and fluid buildup in one or more joints that last up to six months at a time. It most commonly shows in large joints such as knees and elbows, although can be felt and visible in other joints of the body.
Less frequently, people may experience symptoms of liver inflammation, eye inflammation, severe heart inflammation, and inflammation of the membranes around the brain.
Treatment for Lyme Disease
Lyme disease can feel defeating and confusing. Aside from feeling exhausted and having unexplained pain, you may be unsure what is happening if physical symptoms have not surfaced. As the bacteria passes through your body, targeting one system to the next, there is a constant change. This may leave you wondering if you are imagining it or if you will get the diagnosis and treatment you need.
Even more, if you are experiencing these symptoms and you have not been diagnosed with Lyme disease, it may have been missed and there is still hope for you to get on the path to recovery. Just because you received a negative test for Lyme disease doesn’t mean you don’t have it.
Dr. Robin Ridinger, is a double-board-certified physician who uses a healing-oriented approach. With her 25 years of experience in diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, she’ll help you find the answers you’re looking for. This can include supporting your healing by incorporating a range of therapies, such as special diets, supplements, bioidentical hormones, herbal treatments, and medication when necessary. She understands this is a personal and everchanging journey, and her compassionate and listening ear is ready to help answer any questions and get you on your path to happy, healthy, healing.
Ready to start the journey toward healing? Contact us today.