The symptoms of Lyme disease can be confusing and differ among infected persons both in their nature and in their severity. Some people may not have any symptoms at all, but Lyme disease may still be diagnosed through a blood test .
Lyme disease progresses through different stages with varying and sometimes overlapping symptoms. Symptoms include the following:
These symptoms typically occur within 3-32 days of a tick bite.
Many infected people first notice a red rash, known as erythema migrans (EM). The rash starts as a small red spot at the site of the tick bite and expands over a period of days or weeks, forming a circular- or oval-shaped rash. The rash often resembles a bull’s eye: a red ring surrounding a clear or bluish area with a red center. The size of the rash can range from dime-sized to the entire width of a person’s back. More than one ring may develop. Typically, the rash goes away within four weeks.
Lyme Disease Rash
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Although Lyme disease is often associated with this rash, many people do not have the rash right away or at all. Or they may have a red rash, without the bull's eye pattern. If you have other symptoms that you think might be due to Lyme disease, see your doctor; do not wait for a rash to appear.
Muscle and joint aches, headache, fever (a temperature of 100-103 degrees Farenheit [37.7-39.4 degrees Celsius]), stiff neck, swollen glands, and fatigue may occur with or without the rash. These symptoms usually last about 5-21 days.
Note: All symptoms of early manifestation usually occur with the first rash or within about six weeks of it. They may go away on their own within a few weeks or months.
Signs and symptoms lyme disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html . Updated July 26, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2012.
Lyme disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us . Updated June 29, 2012. Accessed September 26, 2012.
Lyme disease. lymedisease.org. Available at: http://www.lymedisease.org/lyme101/lyme_disease/lyme_disease.html . Accessed September 26, 2012.
Lyme disease. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/lymeDisease/understanding/Pages/intro.aspx . Updated March 29, 2011. Accessed September 26, 2012.
Last reviewed December 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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