There are roughly 329,000 new cases of Lyme disease every year, making it the fifth most reported disease in the United States. Lyme disease symptoms can be challenging to recognize because they mimic other illnesses. Some of them are similar to the regular flu, so you might not even realize you have Lyme disease.
If left untreated, Lyme disease becomes more challenging to treat, and one’s health can progressively decline.
Make sure you know these ten symptoms of Lyme disease. The more Lyme disease symptoms you experience, the more proactive you should be in seeking a physician for Lyme disease treatment.
A rash is one of the most common warning signs of Lyme disease. It can appear anywhere on the body, and some people experience more than one.
Most Lyme disease rashes look similar to a bull’s-eye. The bulls-eye rash has a red circle in the center surrounded by a ring of normal skin with another ring of red skin on the outside. The rash is said not to itch. A rash that meets this description is a sure sign of Lyme disease.
This rash represents the bacteria that have spread through the skin tissue. These rashes form within three to thirty days after the initial tick bite. Smaller but similar rashes can also appear three to five weeks after the bite.
Although a bulls-eye rash is a sure sign, it’s not the only sign because not every rash looks like a bull’s-eye, and some infected with Lyme disease never experience a rash at all.
If left untreated, the rash will eventually go away on its own; however, this does not mean the infection has left the body.
2. Achy or Swollen Joints
Joint pain is easy to attribute to another cause, like sports, age, or genetics, but it’s not always the case.
An early Lyme symptom is often stiffness, pain, and aches of the joints. The joints may be inflamed, warm to the touch, swollen, and painful.
The pain can affect more than one joint at the same time, but most commonly affects the larger joints.
3. Fatigue and Other Flu-Like Symptoms
Fatigue is another early symptom of Lyme disease. You’ll start to feel tired, exhausted, or have a complete lack of energy altogether.
In many cases, you won’t be able to pinpoint anything as the cause of this tiredness (think work, sports, school, etc.). This type of fatigue can be severe and can take over your entire body.
You might need to take a nap or two during the day or get extra hours of sleep at night.
The fatigue can also come with other flu-like symptoms, including dizziness, muscle pain, headaches, and fevers. Because these are common flu-like symptoms, you may not realize Lyme disease is the culprit.
The main difference between Lyme disease symptoms and the regular flu is that the symptoms progressively worsen.
4. A decline in Cognitive Ability
There are several different types of cognitive irregularities, and these Lyme disease symptoms can be particularly scary.
You may notice you have a hard time concentrating or focusing in school or work. You may struggle to remember familiar things or experience lapses in your memory. You may process information slower than before.
If you’re running an errand, you might forget how to get there or forget why you went there in the first place. In some cases, you might even be confused about where you are.
5. Neurological Problems
When the bacteria from Lyme disease spread through your nervous system, they inflame the tissue of the meninges, the place where the spinal cord meets the brain. This can cause severe neurological problems.
For example, you might feel less coordinated than usual. Walking in a straight line may take a specific concentration. This could result in your stumbling, tripping, or falling more often.
The Lyme bacteria can also affect your facial nerve (the seventh cranial nerve). This could cause numbness and tingling, muscle weakness, or paralysis on one side of your face (or, in some cases, both sides of your face). This palsy is often misdiagnosed for Bell’s palsy.
6. Trouble Sleeping
Sleep disturbance and restlessness is yet another common Lyme disease symptom.
Joint pain causes restlessness, you may experience fluctuating body temperature, your head and face may feel flushed, and you may suffer chills or night sweats.
7. Sensitivity to Light
As the disease progresses, the light may feel blinding and uncomfortable.
This doesn’t only occur with natural sunlight; it’s reported that indoor light can be so intolerable and intense that many with Lyme disease opt to wear sunglasses.
This symptom is less common than others, but it’s a good sign you need to visit a doctor.
8. Outbreaks on Your Skin
Though skin outbreaks also occur early in the disease’s progression, they are not the same as the bulls-eye rashes. These rashes will be itchy and unattractive. They may also be more serious, and can include:
- B cell lymphoma
- lichen sclerosus
These will appear as discolored, or white patches of skin, without explanation.
9. Heart Problems
When the Lyme disease bacteria invade your heart tissue, it develops a condition known as Lyme carditis.
Lyme carditis can cause light-headedness, heart palpitations, chest pains, or shortness of breath. Inflammation can also block the transmission of electrical signals from one heart chamber to the other.
This block will make the heartbeat in irregular patterns, which is known as heart block.
10. Regression (In Children)
Children get Lyme disease more often than any other person. Unfortunately, unlike adults, it’s difficult for children to explain their symptoms.
This may cause you to see a regression in your children.
For example, this may result in poor school performance, mood swings, and other problematic behavior. Your child’s coordination may regress, and their social and speech skills may worsen.
Loss of appetite is another warning sign of Lyme disease.
Recognizing Lyme Disease Symptoms
Just because you don’t see a tick bite doesn’t mean you don’t have Lyme disease. Most of the Lyme disease symptoms are cyclical, meaning they come and go every few weeks. If left untreated, Lyme disease can progressively worsen and become a severe health issue. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should be proactive in making an appointment with a doctor.