- The first sign of Lyme Disease is a red rash or splotch shaped like a bulls-eye.
- Flu-like symptoms of headache, warm skin especially in the bite area, fever may also develop in combination with the red rash.
- Consult a doctor as soon as possible to avoid inflammation in the brain and heart.
In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 300,000 people are affected by Lyme Disease yearly.
The bullseye-shaped red rash is not the only symptom for it.
The bacteria-carrying blacklegged tick transmits the disease through bites. Here’s a list of the early signs of Lyme Disease 3 to 30 days after getting bitten.
1. A red rash
Nikhil Bhayani, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at Texas Health Hurst-Euless-Bedford, describes the red bulls-eye-shaped rash as forming at the base of the bite area and is usually an allergic reaction to the tick’s saliva. Up to 80% of the people who got bitten will get the red rash.
The bite area does not feel uncomfortable or itchy but may be warm to touch and a crust may form at the center. It can grow as big as 12 inches.
2. Flu-like symptoms
The body may exhibit flu-like symptoms as the immune system fights the bacterial invasion. Kalpana D. Shere-Wolfe, M.D., an infectious disease specialist at the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, explains. The symptoms include: headache, fever, fatigue, neck stiffness, muscle and joint pains, swollen lymph nodes, and chills.
It is different from getting a flu as you would not be having nasal congestion or cough.
In addition to the early signs, other signs may develop after a month or more:
1. Larger or additional rashes
According to the CDC, the earlier rash or splotch, may appear even bigger and other smaller bulls-eye rashes will appear around it. A slightly bluish tint in the middle of the rash may also develop.
2. Exhaustion, fuzzy thinking, and other cognitive problems
Timothy J. Sellati, Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer for the Global Lyme Alliance explains that the bacteria that causes the disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, can cross the blood-brain barrier. This can infect the central nervous system causing inflammation and affects its functions.
76% of patients with advanced symptoms of the Lyme disease suffer from extreme fatigue, while 24% experience short-term memory loss, trouble concentrating, and loss of coordination.
If untreated for a long time, people with Lyme Disease may exhibit behavioral changes and develop facial weakness.
3. Intense headaches
70% of Lyme disease patients suffer from intense headaches that feel like migraine attacks, and experience hypersensitivity to light or noise.
4. Severe pain, numbness, or tingling in your joints and muscles
According to a study by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, as the Lyme disease worsens, around 60% of patients will experience arthritis or joint pains that wax and wane.
Linda Yancey, M.D., an infectious disease specialist with Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital in Katy, said that through time, Lyme disease can lead to tissue damage as the bacteria attack the cartilage in the joints.
Sellati says that, “The damage to tissues, bone, and cartilage is caused by the production of pro-inflammatory proteins, the same protein responsible for damage caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
5. Heart palpitations, dizziness, or shortness of breath
Sellati explains that the bacteria can also cause inflammation in the heart tissues that leads to palpitations.
Although it affects 11% of people with Lyme disease when they are under stress or do vigorous exercise, Sellati says, “If [palpitations] occur frequently, seem to get worse, or are accompanied by chest pain, fainting, severe shortness of breath, or dizziness, you should seek immediate medical attention.”
If you see these symptoms, it is better to see your doctor earlier. Do not wait for the severe symptoms like heart problems, intense joint pain, or cognitive issues to appear before going to the doctor.
An infectious disease specialist would assess symptoms and recommend the type of treatment that a Lyme disease patient should follow. Antibiotics are the usual medications to take to combat infection. For positive results, you’ll be given antibiotics to fight the infection.
If you do not test positive the first time and you still think you have Lyme disease, ask your doctor for a retest as the body’s immune system may have produced antibodies to fight the bacteria in the first few weeks upon being bitten.