Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease transmitted by ticks that causes a range of uncomfortable symptoms from fever and fatigue to brain fog and joint pain. When caught early, it is often treated quickly and easily using antibiotics, but this is not always the case. People don’t always realize they have been bitten by a tick, and they may not notice the signs from the start.
If not treated promptly, Lyme disease can continue to develop and cause problematic symptoms. In most cases, the disease won’t go away on its own without treatment. It will progress and go through three distinct stages, which can eventually lead to a chronic condition that can affect your skin, joints, nervous system, heart, and other organs and bodily functions.
While it can be nerve-wracking to receive a diagnosis for Lyme disease, the good news is that treatment can make a world of difference at any stage. The first step is to meet with a doctor well-versed in Lyme disease, like Dr. Ridinger at Premier Health and Holistic Medicine, that can make a proper diagnosis and create a customized, holistic treatment plan.
Have you noticed any symptoms of Lyme disease? Schedule your consultation today.
What Are the Three Stages of Lyme Disease?
When diagnosing and treating Lyme disease, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms to determine if you have the infection and identify what the stage the condition has progressed too. It can be helpful to share when the tick bite may have occurred, when you first noticed any signs, and what symptoms you are currently experiencing. Here is what you can generally expect at each stage.
First Stage: Early Localized Lyme Disease
The first stage of Lyme disease begins in the first days or weeks after a tick bite has occurred. It typically takes between three and 30 days for any symptoms to start appearing.
Most people first notice a rash in this stage. The tick bite may first resemble a mosquito bite and then expand, creating a red ring with a clear center — like a bull’s eye. It is typically not itchy or painful. It’s important to note that only 70-80% of people with Lyme disease develop the rash, which means a significant number of people won’t present with this symptom. Therefore, it’s not definitive.
In addition to finding a rash, you may feel like you have a bad case of the flu. Other common symptoms to look out for include:
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Muscle and joint pain
- Stiff neck
- Swollen lymph nodes
Ideally, Lyme disease is caught during this initial stage. It can often be diagnosed using an antibody test a couple weeks after the infection sets in (it can take a couple of weeks for the antibodies to develop and the results become less reliable with time). A well-informed Lyme doctor knows that a negative test result does not rule out Lyme disease and that further evaluation is needed before making a diagnosis.
Second Stage: Early Disseminated Lyme Disease
If not detected and treated during the first stage of Lyme disease, it can develop into an early disseminated infection. This stage takes place about one to four months after the initial infection. At this point, the Lyme disease is no longer localized and has spread throughout other parts of the body.
You’ll likely still have flu-like symptoms that make you feel tired, achy, and feverish. You may also still have a rash, which can even multiply and spread to other areas of your skin. You will likely also start to experience some of the following symptoms:
- Conjunctiva (pink eye)
- Dizziness, which may be accompanied by fainting
- Heart palpitations and other heart issues
- Brain fog (memory issues or difficulties concentrating)
- Joint pain and swelling
- Pain and numbness in the arms and legs
- Multiple rashes throughout the body
- Sleep issues and extreme fatigue
- Paralysis of facial muscles
Third Stage: Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
The final, and most severe, stage of Lyme disease is the late disseminated stage. At this point, the infection is now considered chronic and the harmful bacteria has made its way throughout the rest of your body.
People may reach this stage if no proper treatment is successfully administered within four months of being infected. When Lyme disease has reached this point, it can greatly affect your quality of life and make everyday activities and movements very painful and difficult. Stage-three Lyme disease can affect almost every aspect of your life, from your gut health and hormone levels to your immune system and heart condition.
Many of the symptoms listed in stage two progress to a more serious state. For instance, joint pain can develop into chronic arthritis, most often in the knees. Numbness and tingling sensations can spread to other parts of your body, like your back, hands, and feet.
Brain fog symptoms are likely to worsen, making it increasingly difficult to recall certain events or to remain concentrated on one task. You may even experience problems speaking and continue to struggle getting decent sleep at night. Some people with experience mood issues with Lyme disease that can make you feel like you have depression or anxiety — which may not be connected to a psychiatric disorder and can lead to a misdiagnosis from a mental health professional.
Can You Get Help for Chronic Lyme Disease?
We already discussed that Lyme disease is most easily diagnosed and treated in the early stage, but what about when it has evolved into a more serious, chronic condition? No matter how long you’ve been living with symptoms of Lyme disease, you should seek immediate treatment from a Lyme disease specialist.
The first goal is to discover the root cause of your discomfort. While a doctor may have given you a diagnosis like fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome in the past, if you’re still feeling under the weather and notice your symptoms are getting worse despite treatment, you may not have the full picture. A proper diagnosis of Lyme disease is the first step to getting the help you need, and a getting a negative test result in the past does not mean you haven’t had Lyme disease all along.
With late-stage Lyme disease, your holistic doctor can develop a long-term, customized treatment plan that looks fully at all your symptoms and takes your health as a whole into account. Lyme disease is a complex disease, and your recovery depends on many factors including your diet, sleep patterns, water cleanliness, microbe levels, toxin exposure, hormone levels, and more. With an integrative physician like Dr. Robin Ridinger, this can mean a combination of natural supplements and therapies, antibiotics, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and more.
Find Your Optimal Health
If you’re experiencing several of the symptoms we discussed today, you deserve to get the answers you’ve been searching for and find relief. It can be frustrating and even heartbreaking to seek treatment only to continue feeling unwell and in pain. Whether you’ve just experienced a tick bite or suspect you’ve been infected for a much longer period of time, we can help you discover the root cause, develop a holistic treatment plan, and feel yourself again.
It’s time to get well again. Contact us to start your journey.