What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, that’s transmitted to humans through a bite from an infected black-legged or deer tick. Symptoms can occur anywhere from 3 to 30 days after the bite, and symptoms can be wide-ranging, depending on the stage of the infection.
The chances you might get Lyme disease from a tick bite depend on the kind of tick, where you were when the bite occurred, and how long the tick was attached to you, according to the CDC. Black-legged ticks must be attached to you for at least 24 hours to transmit Lyme disease.
What are the symptoms of Lyme Disease?
The rash expands gradually over a period of days and can grow to about 12 inches across. It may feel warm to the touch, but rarely itches or is painful, and it can appear on any part of the body. As the infection progresses, symptoms can include:
- A severe headache or neck stiffness
- Additional rashes on other areas of the body
- Arthritis with severe joint pain and swelling, particularly in the knees
- Loss of muscle tone or “drooping” on one or both sides of the face
- Heart palpitation or an irregular heartbeat
- Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
- Early signs and symptoms
- A small, red bump often appears at the site of a tick bite or tick removal and resolves over a few days. This is normal after a tick bite and does not indicate Lyme disease.
However, these signs and symptoms may occur within a month after you’ve been infected:
Rash – From 3 to 30 days after an infected tick bite, an expanding red area might appear that sometimes clears in the centre, forming a bulls-eye pattern. The rash (erythema migrans) expands slowly over days and can spread to 12 inches (30 centimetres) across. It is typically not itchy or painful.
Erythema Migrans is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease. Some people develop this rash at more than one place on their bodies.
Flu-like Symptoms Fever, chills, fatigue, body aches and a headache may accompany the rash.
Later Signs and Symptoms
If untreated, new signs and symptoms of Lyme infection might appear in the following weeks to months. These include:
- Erythema Migrans appearing in other areas of your body
- Joint Pain Bouts of severe joint pain and swelling are especially likely to affect your knees, but the pain can shift from one joint to another
- Neurological Problems Weeks, months or even years after infection, you might develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding your brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in your limbs, and impaired muscle movement.
Signs and symptoms caused by the bacterium Borrelia mayonii may also include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diffuse rashes (rather than a single bull’s-eye rash commonly associated with Lyme disease)
Less common signs and symptoms
Several weeks after infection, some people develop:
- Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat. Heart problems rarely last more than a few days or weeks.
- Eye inflammation
- Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
- Severe fatigue
Lyme disease is caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii bacteria, carried primarily by blacklegged or deer ticks. The ticks are brown and, when young, often no bigger than a poppy seed, which can make them nearly impossible to spot.
To contract Lyme disease, an infected deer tick must bite you. The bacteria enter your skin through the bite and eventually make their way into your bloodstream. In most cases, to transmit Lyme disease, a deer tick must be attached for 36 to 48 hours. If you find an attached tick looks swollen, it may have fed long enough to transmit bacteria. Removing the tick as soon as possible may prevent infection.