Lyme disease affects various parts of the body. Not everyone who gets Lyme disease will experience the same symptoms.
The best and earliest sign of infection is a rash, called erythema migrans (EM). EM will appear in around 60% - 80% of patients. EM may appear within a few days to a month, usually at the site of the tick bite. The rash will first appear as a small, red bump. Over the next few days, the redness expands. As the rash expands, it begins to look like a bull’s eye, with a red center and a red ring surrounding a clear area. EM should not be mistaken for any initial skin irritation at the site of the bite which fades within about a week.
If left untreated, multiple EM rashes may appear within 3-5 weeks after the tick bite. The onset of more than one rash shows that the infection has spread into the blood. The secondary rashes look like the first bull’s eye rash, but usually smaller in size. A person may experience additional symptoms like:
- Mild eye infections
- Paralysis of the facial muscles (Bell’s palsy)
- Muscle and joint pain
- Abnormal heart rhythm (<10% of cases)
Symptoms of Lyme disease can last for several years, but tend to resolve on their own. Symptoms that may be seen in late disease include:
- Recurrent arthritis commonly in the knees and shoulders
- Impairment of mood, sleep, or memory
- Paralysis of the muscles in the face
- Pain or tingling in the extremities
- Meningitis and encephalitis