Symptoms of Lyme disease
Learn about the symptoms of Lyme disease, what to look for and what to do if you become ill.
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What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
Symptoms of Lyme disease can be different from person to person.
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease usually start 3 to 30 days after you have been bitten by an infected blacklegged tick. Most people experience mild flu-like symptoms soon after being bitten, while a small number may have more serious symptoms, sometimes weeks after the bite.
Early signs and symptoms of Lyme disease may include:
- Rash, sometimes shaped like a bull's eye (Erythema migrans (EM rash))
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
If left untreated, more severe symptoms may occur and can last from months to years. Severe symptoms may include:
- Severe headaches
- Additional EM skin rashes
- Facial paralysis (i.e. Bell's palsy)
- Intermittent muscle, joint, tendon and bone aches
- Heart disorders (heart palpitations, abnormal heartbeat), known as Lyme carditis
- Neurological disorders (dizziness, mental confusion or inability to think clearly, and memory loss, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, nerve pain, numbness or tingling in the hands or feet)
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly the knees and less commonly in other joints such as the ankle, elbow and wrists.
In rare cases, Lyme disease can lead to death usually because of complications involving infection of the heart.
You may experience symptoms that last months to years after treatment. This is a condition known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS).
Symptoms of PTLDS can include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Muscle and joint pain
- Mental confusion or inability to think clearly, with subtle cognitive changes
What do you do if you become ill?
Consult your health care provider right away if you develop symptoms of Lyme disease after being bitten by a tick or if you visited a known at risk area for Lyme disease. The earlier a diagnosis is made, the greater the chance of a successful treatment.
If you saved the tick that bit you, bring it to your medical appointment. Tell your doctor:
- how long you estimate that the tick was attached to you
- where you were when you were bitten by the tick
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