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Lyme Disease Symptoms

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 may be misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome.

Lyme disease progresses through different stages with varying and sometimes overlapping symptoms. Symptoms include the following:

Early Infection

These symptoms typically occur within 3-32 days of a tick bite.


Some 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 infectious spirochetes move quickly throughout the body's tissues, which is why this rash continues to expand. 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
Lyme Disease Rash
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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.

Flu-like Symptoms

Muscle and joint aches, headache, fever (100°-103°), stiff neck, swollen glands, and fatigue may occur with or without the rash. These symptoms usually last about 5-21 days.

Lyme Arthritis

Though general aches and pains are somewhat common symptoms of a lyme infections (as discussed directly above), when these symptoms worsen and show up months after the bite, they might be part of a condition called lyme arthritis. Joints, tendons and muscles can be affected may swell to as much as four times their normal size, and this process might come-and-go with varying immune competence (the ability of the immune system to respond to an infection or other internal condition).1

For unknown reasons, lyme arthritis tends to resolve on its own, even if left untreated, though it could take up to four years for this to clear on its own. However, it is usually decently responsive to plant-based therapies like herbal therapies.


Lyme infection can affect the central nervous system, along with tissues, joint and muscles symptoms discussed above. Usually exhibited within seven days of the initial infections, the central nervous system symptoms (including cognitive disturbances, memory loss, vertigo, vision abnormalities, and inflammatory processes like meningismus in the brain) can lay dormant for months and continue to present for years.

Early Widespread Infection

  • Multiple EM lesions—The rash may appear in several places on the body.
  • Arthritis — Sometimes joint pain is the first symptom that is noticed. Other joint problems include stiffness and swelling, particularly in the large joints, such as the knee, elbow, and shoulder.
  • Nervous system problems—The bacteria can affect the brain, spinal cord, and other nerves of the body. Symptoms of this include:
  • Weakness and drooping of the face and eyelid on one side (Bell’s palsy )—It may also occur on both sides of the face.
    • Low back pain
    • Wide-spread numbness, tingling, and burning
    • Impaired motor coordination
    • Persistent headache
    • Stiff neck
    • Mood changes
    • Difficulty concentrating or sleeping
    • Generalized weakness
  • Eye problems—such as conjunctivitis (redness and inflammation) and/or pressure in eyes
  • Other body systems—Affected areas may include the heart, liver, lymph nodes, testes, and eyes.
  • Chest pain, heart palpitation
  • Continual low-grade fever
  • High fever, chills, or sweating
  • Muscle twitching

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.

Late Infection

Joint pain—painful inflammation of the joints, as well as intermittent or chronic arthritis

Chronic nervous system problems—These may include:

  • Memory problems, including dementia
  • Depression or other emotional problems
  • Sleep disorder
  • Nerve pain or problems

Chronic skin problems - can include thinning, thickening, or discoloration of the skin, usually of the hands and feet



  1. Buhner, S.H. Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme /borreliosis and Its Coinfections. Silver City, NM Raven Press. 2005

Frequently asked questions. American Lyme Disease Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed October 5, 2008.

Lyme disease. Lyme Disease Foundation website. Available at: . Accessed October 5, 2008.

Lyme disease. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases website. Available at: . Accessed October 5, 2008.

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1 Comment

Posted a year ago

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