What Are The Stages Of Lyme Infection
There are three stages:
- Early localized Lyme: Flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, headache, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, and a rash that looks like a bull’s-eye or is round and red and at least 2 inches long
- Early disseminated Lyme: Flu-like symptoms like pain, weakness, or numbness in your arms and legs, changes in your vision, heart palpitations and chest pain, a rash , and a type of facial paralysis known as Bellâs palsy
- Late disseminated Lyme: This can happen weeks, months, or years after the tick bite. Symptoms might include arthritis, severe fatigue and headaches, dizziness, trouble sleeping, and confusion.
About 10% of people treated for Lyme infection donât shake the disease. They may go on to have three core symptoms: joint or muscle pain, fatigue, and short-term memory loss or confusion. This is called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. It can be hard to diagnose because it has the same symptoms as other diseases. Plus, there isn’t a blood test to confirm it.
Experts arenât sure why Lyme symptoms donât always go away. One theory is that your body keeps fighting the infection even after the bacteria are gone, like an autoimmune disorder.
Can Lyme Disease Be Prevented Or Avoided
The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid being bitten by ticks. When you are outdoors, follow these guidelines:
- Avoid areas that are wooded, brushy, or have tall grass.
- Walk in the center of trails.
- Use an insect repellent with at least 20% DEET. It can be put on clothing or sparingly on the skin. Dont apply it to the face or hands of children.
- Treat clothing, tents, or other gear with repellents containing 0.5% permethrin.
- Wear light-colored clothing. This makes it easier to see and remove ticks from your clothes.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Tuck your pant legs into your socks or boots for added protection.
After you get home, check everything and everyone for ticks.
- Bathe or shower as soon as you can to wash off any ticks that have not attached to you.
- Check your entire body for ticks. Use a mirror for places you cant see. Check your children and your pets. Common tick locations include the back of the knees, groin area, underarms, ears, scalp, and the back of the neck.
- Check any gear you used, including coats, backpacks, or tents.
Tumble dry clothes or blankets on high heat in the dryer for 10 to 15 minutes. This should kill any ticks. If clothes are dirty, wash them in hot water and dry on high heat for 60 minutes.
Lyme Disease Symptoms Are Wide
Lyme disease can mimic hundreds of other conditions since its symptoms mirror many medical problems such as multiple sclerosis, arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome or lupus, and is sometimes known as The Great Imitator because of this. for a more complete list of possible symptoms.
Symptoms can play a key role in diagnosing Lyme disease. Due to the lack of an accurate diagnostic test, many patients are diagnosed based on a combination symptoms and diagnostic testing. This makes it extremely important for patients to keep track of all the symptoms they experience, to share with their healthcare provider.
When do Lyme disease symptoms appear? Learn about the Stages of Lyme disease:
Lyme disease symptoms can vary based on stage of the disease and if other tick-borne infections are present and can change over time.
Symptoms in acute Lyme disease
Acute Lyme disease occurs days to weeks after the initial tick bite and infection, in which the bacteria have not yet spread from the site of infection in the skin.
The most common symptoms in acute Lyme disease are the ones people are most familiar with, because they are symptoms often shared with other illnesses however, its important to recognize that they could indicate Lyme, and you should see a Lyme-treating physician right away.
Symptoms in early disseminated Lyme disease
Symptoms in late stage Lyme disease
- neurologic features including vertigo or dizziness,
- difficulty sleeping
Some common questions
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When Should I Go See My Doctor
Anyone who has been bitten by a black-legged deer tick is at risk for Lyme disease. The highest risk groups include those living in or visiting endemic areas, especially people who spend significant time outdoors such as gardeners, hikers, or outdoor workers.
Patients should seek advice from their doctor if they have a suspicious round expanding red skin lesion, and/or show signs of summer-flu, particularly during Lyme disease season, which is highest-risk late spring through July/August. If those circumstances apply or symptoms persist it is very important to go to a physician.
For the west coast and other more temperate regions Lyme disease can be a year-round concern.
In the later disseminated stages, Lyme disease can be a much more insidious and complex illness. An individual should seek medical care if experiencing symptoms such as prolonged fevers, unexplained fatigue, painful joints, new or unusual headache, or heart or neurologic symptoms. If unexplained viral-like symptoms last for more than 1-2 weeks, please seek the advice of a physician.
What’s The Best Way To Prevent A Tick Bite
Ticks can’t fly or jump. But they live in shrubs and bushes and can grab onto you when you pass by. To avoid getting bitten:
- Wear pants and socks in areas with lots of trees and when you touch fallen leaves.
- Wear a tick repellent on your skin and clothing that has DEET, lemon oil, or eucalyptus.
- For even more protection, use the chemical permethrin on clothing and camping gear.
- Shower within 2 hours after coming inside. Look for ticks on your skin, and wash ticks out of your hair.
- Put your clothing and any exposed gear into a hot dryer to kill whatever pests might be on them.
How do you know if you’ve been bitten?
Since ticks are so small, you’ve got to have pretty good eyes to see them.
If you have a small, red bump on your skin that looks like a mosquito bite, it could be a tick bite. If it goes away in a few days, itâs not a problem. Remember, a tick bite doesnât necessarily mean you have Lyme disease.
If you notice a rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye, you might have a tick bite. Talk to your doctor about treatment.
If you have an allergic reaction to ticks, you’ll notice a bite right away.
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Treatment For Lyme Disease Symptoms
Doctors say the sooner you notice symptoms, the better your outcome. People treated in the early stages of Lyme generally make a full, rapid recovery, the CDC notes.
Antibiotics are recommended for most people with Lyme disease, but what that regimen looks like varies widely from person to person. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says a short course of an oral antibiotic, such as doxycycline or amoxicillin, can clear up Lyme infection in most cases. However, the particular drug, dosage, and duration your doctor recommends may depend on factors such as:
- Your age
- Whether you are pregnant
- Allergies to medications
Even after treatment, some people report lingering symptoms. They may have persistent pain, muscle and joint aches, unexplained numbness, and fatigue, for example. Brain fog and sleep disruption are also common, says Dr. Flanagan. These sputtering symptoms can stretch over a few months, he says, but they will get better graduallyit can take time: two steps forward, one step back.
Symptoms that persist for more than six months may lead to what the CDC calls post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome . The CDC says people with PTLDS can get better in time, but it can take months. Some doctors recommend prolonged antibiotic treatment. However, CDC cautions that long-term courses of antibiotics can actually be dangerous.
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What To Do If You Have A Blacklegged Tick Bite
Remove the tick by pulling it directly out with fine-tipped tweezers. Lift upward with slow and even pressure. Dont twist when removing it. Dont crush it or put soap or other substances on it. Dont apply heat to it.
Place the tick in a resealable container. See if you can identify what kind of a tick it is.
Immediately after removing the tick, wash your skin well with soap and water or with rubbing alcohol.
Not all ticks carry Lyme. The Lyme bacteria is transmitted only by blacklegged ticks in their nymph or adult stage.
Save the tick to show your doctor. The doctor will want to determine if its a blacklegged tick and if theres evidence of feeding. Ticks enlarge as they feed. Your risk of getting Lyme from an infected tick increases with the length of time that the tick fed on your blood.
Pull the tick out with tweezers and save it in a resealable container for identification.
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Stage : Late Disseminated Lyme Disease
Late disseminated Lyme disease occurs when the infection hasnt been treated in stages 1 and 2. Stage 3 can occur months or years after the tick bite.
This stage is characterized by:
- arthritis of one or more large joints
- brain disorders, such as encephalopathy, which can cause short-term memory loss, difficulty concentrating, mental fogginess, problems with following conversations, and sleep disturbance
- numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
- park or wildlife management
The majority of tick bites happen in the summer when ticks are the most active and people spend more time outside. However, its also possible to get Lyme disease from tick bites in early fall, and even in late winter if the weather is unseasonably warm.
Lyme disease prevention mostly involves decreasing your risk of experiencing a tick bite.
Take the following steps to prevent tick bites:
Contact a doctor if and whenever a tick bites you or your loved ones.
Symptoms Of Late Stage Lyme Disease
The CDC reports that late stage Lyme disease may appear days to months after the initial tick bite and may include but are not limited to:
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness
- Additional EM rashes in new places on the body
- Facial palsy, also known as Bells palsy paralysis of one side of the face
- Arthritis or joint pain and swelling, especially of large joints
- Intermittent tendon, muscle, joint, nerve, or bone pain
- Heart palpitations or arrhythmia
- Dizziness or shortness of breath
- Inflammation of the brain or spinal cord
- Shooting pains, numbness, or tingling in the hands or feet
As mentioned above, late stage Lyme may also be characterized by the recurrence of early stage symptoms, such as fatigue.
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Symptoms Of Early Stage Lyme Disease
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , early-stage Lyme disease symptoms crop up within 3 to 30 days after exposure and can include but are not limited to:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Swelling of the lymph nodes
- Erythema migrans , a bulls-eye-shaped rash that appears at the site of the tick bite
Early Lyme disease does not always appear the same in all patients. For example, up to 30% of patients dont remember experiencing a bulls eye rash.
Who Is At Risk For Lyme Disease
Anyone can get a tick bite. But people who spend lots of time outdoors in wooded, grassy areas are at a higher risk. This includes campers, hikers, and people who work in gardens and parks.
Most tick bites happen in the summer months when ticks are most active and people spend more time outdoors. But you can get bitten in the warmer months of early fall, or even late winter if temperatures are unusually high. And if there is a mild winter, ticks may come out earlier than usual.
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What Blacklegged Ticks Look Like
Blacklegged ticks are small and hard to see. They attach themselves to humans and animals and feed on their blood. They can range in size depending on how long they have been feeding.
You can find out if its a blacklegged tick by:
- calling your local public health unit or checking their website
- submitting a photo of the tick to etick.ca
Adult female blacklegged tick at various stages of feeding. Photo: Government of Canada
Can You Have Lyme Disease Without Knowing
The Lyme test came back positive. Greene is one of many people who dont notice early signs of Lyme disease, brush off the symptoms, or whose medical providers missed the symptoms, which often include fever, headache, fatigue, and a bulls-eye skin rash called erythema migrans, considered the hallmark of the disease.
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Lyme Disease: Signs And Symptoms
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How To Avoid Tick Bites
To reduce the chance of being bitten:
- cover your skin while walking outdoors and tuck your trousers into your socks
- use insect repellent on your clothes and skin products containing DEET are best
- stay on clear paths whenever possible
- wear light-coloured clothing so ticks are easier to see and brush off
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How To Remove A Tick
Removing a tick is the same for humans and animals. Its important you do not crush or damage the tick because it could cause Lyme bacteria to pass from the tick into your bloodstream.
How to remove a tick.
Early Symptoms Of Lyme Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease in humans can be vague, and chances are you have no idea youve been bitten by an infected tick until symptoms surface.
Ticks secrete an anesthetic that makes their bites painless, explains Christine Green, MD, a family physician in Mountain View, California, and a member of the Bay Area Lyme Foundations scientific advisory board. Plus, theyre tiny. A young, immature tick, called a nymphthe stage of development during which these bloodsuckers are most likely to transmit Lyme diseaseis roughly the size of a pinhead when it latches on, so you dont know its there, she tells Health.
According to the CDC, the incubation period for Lymein other words, the time between a persons exposure to Borrelia bacteria and symptom onsetranges from three to 30 days. The main symptoms of Lyme disease in the early days and weeks after infection can include:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
Often these people are more sick than you would expect from a cold, says Dr. Green. Theyre in the doctors office in the middle of summer, and they feel bad. They often do have headache or light sensitivity. Even new onset ringing in the ear can be a sign of Lyme, which can affect any cranial nerve, she says.
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Early Detection Is Key
Lyme disease is easiest to treat at the early or acute stage, within the first 30 days of exposure. This is why its so important to take precautions to prevent tick bites, both during and outside of tick season. Protect yourself when near potential tick habitats, always perform tick checks after outdoor activity , and dont delay seeking medical attention if you notice any symptoms that might be related to tick-borne illness. Its important to get tested as soon as possible for the best chances of recovery.
Learn The Stages Of Lyme Disease
Lyme disease occurs in three stages: early localized, early disseminated and late disseminated. However the stages can overlap and not all patients go through all three. A bulls-eye rash is usually considered one of the first signs of infection, but many people develop a different kind of rash or none at all. In most cases, Lyme symptoms can start with a flu-like illness. If untreated, Lyme disease symptoms can continue to worsen and turn into a long-lived debilitating illness.
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Lyme Disease Symptoms Also Occur In Other Diseases
Many Lyme symptoms, such as fatigue, cognitive impairment, joint pain, poor sleep, mood problems, muscle pain, and neurological presentations also occur in other diseases. Hence, the symptoms of Lyme disease significantly overlap those of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinsons disease, ALS, depression and Alzheimers disease. Many Lyme patients report being misdiagnosed with a different condition before being properly diagnosed with Lyme disease.
Chronic Lyme Disease Vs Acute And Late Stage Lyme
One reason chronic Lyme disease is harder to detect and treat than Lyme at earlier stages is that chronic Lyme disease symptoms are more wide-ranging and varied. Chronic Lyme disease can cause symptoms of early Lyme disease such as fatigue and muscle aches to recur, but it can also cause new symptoms that affect different parts of the body.
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