Lyme disease is serious. Please consult your physician.
KNOW THE SYMPTOMS
Typically, the first symptom of Lyme disease is a rash known as erythema migrans (EM), which starts as a small red spot at the site of the tick bite and gets larger over a period of days or weeks, forming a circular or oval-shaped red rash. The rash may look like a bull's eye, appearing as a red ring around a clear area with a red center. It appears within a few weeks of a tick bite and usually occurs at the place of the bite. The rash can range in size from that of a small coin to the width of a person's back. As infection spreads, rashes can appear at different sites on the body. The rash is often accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, headache, stiff neck, body aches and fatigue. Although these symptoms may be like those of common viral infections, such as the flu, Lyme disease symptoms tend to last longer or may come and go over time. Some people who have Lyme disease may develop arthritis or nervous system problems and more rarely, heart problems. Lyme disease may also cause eye inflammation, hepatitis (liver disease), and severe fatigue. However, these problems usually only appear in conjunction with other symptoms of the disease.
KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR
A bull’s-eye shaped rash at the site of the tick bite is the most reliable early symptom of Lyme disease. It appears 3 to 32 days after a tick bite in 70-80% of cases. The rash has a dark spot in the center where the bite was, with a lighter color ring around the spot. Other early symptoms of Lyme disease resemble those of the flu. Warning signs include fatigue, headache, joint stiffness, stiff or painful muscles, fever and swollen joints. If the disease progresses, symptoms such as irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations or neurological abnormalities can develop. In its most advanced stages, Lyme disease can be debilitating.
"Early treatment is the most effective way to clear the infection from the body," says Dr. Joseph Breen of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "The key is to consult a health care provider as soon as you recognize a bull's eye rash, chills, fever, headache, fatigue and muscle pain."
KNOW WHAT TO ASK YOUR DOCTOR
Where on my body am I most likely to get a tick bite?
• How large are ticks and tick bites? If I have a tick bite, will I always get Lyme disease?
• Can I get Lyme disease even if I never noticed a tick bite on my body?
• What can I do to prevent getting tick bites when I am in a wooded or grassy area?
• Is there a time of the yea rwhen the risk is higher?
• Should I remove a tick if I find one on my body? What is the proper way to remove a tick bite? Should I save the tick?
If I get Lyme disease from a tick bite, what symptoms will I have?
• Will I always have symptoms soon after getting Lyme disease (early or primary Lyme disease)? Will these symptoms get better if I am treated with antibiotics?
• If I do not get symptoms right away, can I get symptoms later? How much later? Are these symptoms the same as the early symptoms? Will these symptoms get better if I am treated with antibiotics?
• If I am treated for Lyme disease, will I ever have symptoms again? If I do, will these symptoms get better if I am treated with antibiotics?
How can my doctor diagnose me with Lyme disease? Can I be diagnosed even if I do not remember having a tick bite?
What are the antibiotics used to treat Lyme disease? How long do I need to take them? What are the side effects?
Will I have a full recovery from my Lyme disease symptoms?