What Are Lyme Disease Symptoms?

It’s spring again, which, for the natural world, is a time of rebirth as it wakes up from its winter dormancy. There’s a lot to look forward to, from days getting longer to flowers blooming once again and more temperate weather letting you spend more time outdoors.

Unfortunately, spring also marks the start of tick season. While some ticks are active year-round, others are most active beginning in April. And if you get bitten by a deer tick (also known as the black-legged tick), you may experience Lyme disease symptoms.

But what is Lyme disease exactly? How can you tell you have it, and why should you never ignore its symptoms?

Read on, as this guide answers all those questions and offers insights on treating Lyme disease. 

What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, an illness caused by bacteria, has a history dating back to 1975. Back then, unusual arthritic symptoms affected children and adults living in Lyme, CT. However, it wasn’t until 1981 that Dr. Wilhelm Burgdorfer, a medical entomologist, discovered the cause.

During his research, Dr. Burgdorfer found bacterial spirochetes in deer ticks. He and his colleagues determined that these bacteria were behind the mysterious arthritic-like condition of the people in Lyme, CT. The bacteria, named after him, is none other than Borrelia burgdorferi.

Lyme disease is the leading vector-borne disease in the United States. You’re at risk if you (and your cats or dogs) spend time in wooded, grassy, or brushy areas. 

Why Should You Care About Lyme Disease?

If left untreated, Lyme disease can attack other body parts, including the joints, nervous system, and heart. The infection can also lead to an immune response that may result in Lyme arthritis. These consequences can result in chronic symptoms that cause considerable pain and suffering. 

Do All Deer Tick Bites Lead to Lyme Disease?

Not all deer tick bites lead to Lyme disease and its symptoms. To transmit the bacteria, an infected nymph usually must remain attached to the host for 36 to 48 hours. For adult ticks, this time range increases to 48 to 72 hours.

So, if you remove a tick within 24 hours of it landing on you, your odds of getting Lyme disease could be significantly lower.

Unfortunately, since ticks can be so tiny, many people who develop Lyme disease don’t remember getting bitten. This is also why many of those who’ve contracted the illness aren’t aware they have it until they experience symptoms. 

What Are Lyme Disease Symptoms Then?

The symptoms of Lyme disease vary based on the infection’s stage. There are three:

  1. Early localized
  2. Early disseminated
  3. Late disseminated

Doctors use those stages to categorize symptom severity and development. 

Early Localized

The symptoms of the early localized stage often occur within one to 28 days of the tick bite.

A specific type of rash called erythema migrans (EM) is among the most common early signs of Lyme disease. It often starts as a round, red rash that expands, making it look like a bulls-eye target. It’s seldom itchy or sore but may feel warm to the touch.

Some people who develop Lyme disease don’t exhibit EM, though. Instead, they may experience chills, fatigue, fever, muscle pain, and joint aches. 

Early Disseminated

If not treated at the early localized stage, Lyme disease can progress to this stage within 3 to 12 weeks after the bite. The infection can cause the same symptoms as the first stage, as well as the following:

  • Rashes on other body parts
  • Chest pain, dyspnea, and palpitations
  • Neck pain or stiffness
  • Painful, numb, or weak hands and feet
  • Facial muscle weakness

Because the infection can spread to the face, it may also cause keratitis and eye pain. In some patients, some level of vision impairment may also occur. 

Late Disseminated

This is the final stage of Lyme disease, occurring many months to years after the bite. Its symptoms are similar to the first two stages but are often more severe and long-lasting. It may also have neurological and rheumatological manifestations. 

What Are Lyme Disease Treatment Options?

Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, treating it involves using antibacterial medications. Typical choices include amoxicillin, azithromycin, cefuroxime, and doxycycline. The duration patients need to take them depends on the stage of the disease. 

Early Stage Lyme Disease Treatment

The sooner Lyme disease gets treated, the higher the chances of complete recovery. Fortunately, most people who get this infection recover completely from antibiotic treatment. However, some symptoms persist in about 5% to 10% of patients.

Therefore, it’s imperative not to disregard symptoms you think point to Lyme disease. If you experience them, please go to the doctor immediately. Your infection may still be just at the early disseminated stage, and if so, your doctor may only prescribe oral antibiotics for 10 to 14 days. 

Later Stage Lyme Disease Treatment

If the infection is already at the second or third stage, you may have to take medications for two to four weeks. Your doctor may also have to prescribe intravenous (IV) antibiotics.

If you have cardiac symptoms (e.g., chest pain or palpitations), you may have to stay in the hospital. Your doctor would need to monitor your condition until the abnormality resolves.

Natural Remedies for Lyme Disease

Some people use natural remedies, such as herbal compounds, to help treat Lyme disease. Researchers found some herbs have potential properties that may help fight off the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. These include thyme, oregano, and Chinese skullcap, to name a few. 

Natural remedies are complementary therapies used alongside conventional medicines rather than as substitutes. To learn more about these natural, holistic medicine approaches, visit the Highroad Enterprises website. 

Never Ignore Possible Lyme Disease Symptoms

From erythema migrans rash to chills, fever, and facial muscle weakness, these are typical Lyme disease symptoms. So, if you experience these indications and have recently spent time in grassy, bushy, or woody areas, please visit a doctor ASAP. The sooner you do, the sooner you can determine if it’s Lyme disease and, if so, get treated before it worsens.

For more practical and informative health and wellness guides like this, browse our other latest blog posts!

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