Lyme Disease Symptoms

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The first symptom of Lyme disease (also called Lyme’s disease) for about 50% of people is a small, red bull’s-eye rash, called erythema migrans, at the site of an infected tick bite. The rash usually appears a week or two after a painless bite, but can appear within 3 to 30 days. It typically spreads or may show up in other areas. It can also not look like a bull’s eye. And if the tick rash is very small and in a hairy place, it may never be noticed.

Other early, acute symptoms are flu-like – fatigue, achy muscles or joints, fever, chills, stiff neck, swollen glands, and a headache. Most doctors base their diagnosis of early Lyme primarily on the rash and accompanying symptoms. There are blood tests, many of which return erroneous results. We’ll have more to say about testing soon.

If Lyme is identified in this early stage and treated with an appropriate course of antibiotics, it usually goes away. Treatment, however, doesn’t provide immunity; you can get the disease again if another infected tick bites you. There is no vaccine.

It would be great if Lyme got caught early and treated in everyone who has it. But it’s a very tricky illness.

Some people with classic early symptoms never get treated because they either don’t go to their doctor or their doctor doesn’t suspect it. Some doctors do diagnose it but don’t treat it long enough. And some infected people never get any early symptoms.

Lyme is often hard to diagnose because many symptoms are non-specific (stiff neck, fever, tingling and numbness, headache, lack of energy, weakness, moodiness, or achiness). Also, many doctors don’t know much about the disease or don’t believe that it’s a prevalent illness, especially in areas that aren’t known to be habitats for the Ixodes ticks that carry it.

Without treatment, the illness eventually becomes more debilitating.

Untreated, the bacteria can lie dormant and appear months or even years later. Chronic Lyme mimics the symptoms of over 350 diseases, including multiple sclerosis, lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Parkinson’s. Sadly, many people with chronic, late-stage Lyme spend years and substantial sums of money being treated for other diseases before finally learning that they have it.

Chronic Symptoms

Most people chronically ill with Lyme have a combination of symptoms, compounded by the symptoms of other co-infections they may have. No two patients have exactly the same complaints.

The spirochetes travel from the site of the bite to anywhere in the body via the skin, lymph system, and blood. They can ultimately cause problems in all body systems.

Credit: Michael Abbey/Photo Researchers, Inc. - Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium in a blood smear

Credit: Michael Abbey/ Photo Researchers, Inc. - Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium in a blood smear

Here’s a plain-English list of common symptoms:

Brain and Central Nervous System: migraines, dizziness, brain fog, poor memory, poor sleep, lack of verbal fluency, confusion or disorientation, decreased ability to concentrate, facial nerve tics or paralysis, sore jaw, sinusitis, mood swings, difficulty chewing or swallowing, sore throat, hoarseness, muscle twitches, numbness and tingling, shooting pains, and lower back or neck pain. Lyme has also been found to mimic all the psychiatric disorders.

Muscles, joints, and bones: pains that come and go (with or without swelling), cramps, stiffness.

Circulation: too fast or two slow heart rate, irregular heartbeat (palpitations), inflammation of the heart muscle or arteries, and chest pain.

Breathing: sinusitis, difficulty breathing, and pneumonias.

Skin: rashes, itching, crawling sensations, benign cysts and nodules, and skin discoloration.

Eyes: pain, inflammation, blurred or double vision, retinal damage, floaters, flashing lights, light sensitivity, dry eye, and blindness.

Ears: itching, earache, buzzing, ringing, and sound sensitivity.

Digestive tract: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, loss of appetite, mild liver function abnormalities, and spleen tenderness and enlargement.

Genitourinary tract: inflammation of the urethra and bladder, pelvic pain, testicular pain, and loss of sexual desire.

General: tiredness, lack of stamina, fever, vague discomfort, irritability, nervousness or anxiety, and weight loss or gain.

Borrelia is a brilliant bacterium that can avoid detection by the body’s immune system by changing shape, becoming cell-wall deficient (living inside red blood cells) or encysting over with albumin, which antibiotics can’t reach, and hiding out in a dormant state in hard to reach places like the spaces between ligaments and bones.

If you suspect your or someone you know has Lyme, you should find a doctor who knows how to diagnose it correctly and treat it adequately if you have it.  The earlier you get treatment, the better.

Lyme is not just another little infection that goes away in a week or two; people have died from it.

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4,168 Responses to “Lyme Disease Symptoms”

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  1. John Says:

    Looking for a physician in Redding, CA area who specializes in treating chronic Lyme Disease, thanks

    [sent-Pam]

    Reply

  2. donald l Says:

    being treated for depression. but i suspect something else is wrong. vision problems for months then ok joint pain in different joints at different times had lyme test twice cam back negetive. can these symptoms come and go? i live in dartmouth ma. could use a good lymes disease doctor in my area thank you.

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Yes, Donald, Lyme symptoms often come and go as the organism goes through its life cycle. I’m sending you MA Lyme info so you can find a doctor who knows how to diagnose Lyme correctly and treat it adequately if you have it. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  3. Patricia Says:

    My son has been diagnosed with Lyme. We are not sure how long ago he was bitten. He has numerous symptoms: joint pain, extreme fatigue, memory and cognitive thinking issues…. The doctor has started him on an antibiotic. Is there a specialist in Maine and/or New England that you can recommend?

    Reply

  4. Zella Says:

    I’m looking for a good Lyme doctor near Oregon City, Oregon. Thank you for your help.

    Reply

  5. Jacqueline Says:

    Hello Pam,
    I am looking for a llmd in Illinois or even southern Wisconsin in order to help my daughter regain her life back. Has suffered for 6years and only now see the parallel of her symptoms to Lyme disease. We have gone to so many doctors with only treating symptoms. She was bit by a tick a few weeks prior to the start of this horrible journey but the Elise test was negative. I read through so many of your posts and hope you can help me find a great doc for my 18 year old. She has missed so much of her young life and I’m still praying for a miracle.

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Jacqueline, I’m sending you IL and WI Lyme info. Stay at it until you find a doctor who knows how to diagnose Lyme correctly and treat it adequately if your daughter has it. Travel if you must to get good care. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

      • Dan R. Says:

        Hi Pam, I am also looking for a LLMD in Southern Wisconsin. I have had a positive lymne test and was misdiagnosed – in hospital x2. Two years later I have all the symptoms and am very sick. Please send any information you have for treatment options.

      • Pam Dodd Says:

        WI/IL Lyme info is being sent ASAP, Dan. Thanks for asking.

  6. Theresa Says:

    Hi Pam. I had a bullseye rash on my arm about 9-10 years ago. I did not realize what it was at the time. For the past 3 years I have been experiencing many symptoms like those you have mentioned. I am in the Tampa area in Florida. Are there any physicians you could recommend in this area?

    Reply

  7. Micki Says:

    Could you please send me doctor information for the Bloomington, IN area?

    Reply

  8. L.Westberg Says:

    I just found out I have Acute Lyme Disease the doctor said he thinks I was bitten 6 months ago Never knew it I did have a tick in my back 25 years ago I’m in Chester California is the any doctor around this area I should go to? and how much damage is done to my body?

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      CA Lyme info is on its way ASAP. It would be hard to say how much damage your body has experienced from Lyme. Everyone gets a different combination of symptoms. Having it untreated for six months, however, is usually better than if you’ve had it for years. Thanks for asking, LW.

      Reply

  9. Heidi Says:

    Hi- I am desperate to find out what is going on with me. I have been waking up at night from tightening of my muscles in my upper arms, chest and shoulders for the last year and a half. Some nights are worse then others with an occasional night with it not happening at all. I finally went to my family doctor and had a full physical. He seems to think it is stress or in my head and suggested I see a therapist. They want to push sleep aid medications that are addictive and don’t address the cause of the symptoms. The problem has now carried over to the day time and the discomfort has now traveled to my lower arms as well as my upper arm and shoulders. My doctor has suggested I see a doctor for neuropathy and ahe also mentioned lyme disease and is going to test for it. Are there Doctor’s who specialze in lyme disease? I live in East Haddam, CT

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Heidi, CT has many doctors who specialize in Lyme. I’m sending you info on how to find one near you. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

  10. TNLYME Says:

    I would appreciate LLMD information for the greater Nashville, TN area. Thank you.

    Reply

  11. Lesss Says:

    A friend suggested I look into CLD because of the range of symptoms I have been having….so here I am! Can the delay of symptoms really be years? I know I was bitten about 3-1/2 years ago…What is the best way to find doctors in the St Louis, Mo area?

    Reply

    • Pam Dodd Says:

      Lesss, yes, symptoms of Lyme can show up years after being bitten by an infected tick. I’m sending you MO Lyme info shortly. Thanks for asking.

      Reply

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