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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

Rashes from lyme disease

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  • Lyme disease is often called “the great imitator,” since the disease usually causes symptoms similar to other disorders
  • In about 50 percent of cases, an expanding red rash will appear (typically clearing up in the center)

With Lyme disease, early treatment is crucial for a fast and complete recovery. It is often called “the great imitator,” since the disease usually causes symptoms similar to other disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), arthritis, fibromyalgia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Alzheimer’s disease.

This makes Lyme disease very difficult to diagnose and treat, which is the reason you need to know its common symptoms.

Early Signs of Lyme Disease

In about 50 percent of cases, an expanding red rash will appear (typically clearing up in the center). This commonly develops at the site of the tick bite. The term for this rash is erythema migrans, but it is often called the “bull’s-eye rash.” It slowly becomes bigger over several days, and may even reach a diameter of 12 inches.

The Lyme disease rash is generally not painful or itchy but, in some cases, it can develop at more than one place in your body. Aside from the bull’s eye rash, the other early symptoms of Lyme infection are fever, chills, headache, fatigue and body aches.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if you have any of these symptoms, have had a tick bite, and live in (or have been to) an area where the disease is prevalent, you may be infected.1

If this is the case, you need to get a proper diagnosis so the infection can be treated early, and serious complications will be avoided.

Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms

If Lyme disease is left untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can spread and reach different parts of your body, causing severe symptoms that are difficult to resolve.

This is what’s called chronic or post-treatment Lyme disease. The common symptoms are muscle/joint aches, severe fatigue and difficulty concentrating. You may also experience heart rhythm disturbances, severe headaches and mental fogginess.

Remember that the symptoms may disappear even without treatment, but this doesn’t mean that you are disease-free. Weeks, months or even years after being infected, problems with your heart, brain and nervous system may occur. Your circulatory, digestive and reproductive systems may develop problems as well.2

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Children

In children, the disease is more difficult to diagnose because they typically can’t explain what feels wrong. The signs and symptoms are generally the same, which may start with the bull’s-eye rash. Dr. Charles Ray Jones, a Lyme pediatric specialist, says that common Lyme infection symptoms in children include:3

Fatigue unrelieved by rest

Recurrent headache



Abdominal pain

Difficulty concentrating

Impaired short-term memory

Difficulty sustaining attention


Uncharacteristic behavior

Mood swings


Joint pain


If you think that you or your child may be infected, the specialized laboratory called IGeneX is recommended, since they have more specialized tests that can usually detect Lyme infection much better than regular blood tests. Remember that prevention is best, because Lyme is very difficult to diagnose and treat, especially among children.

The CDC recommends the use of insect repellents with 20 to 30 percent N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET),4 but this is not advisable, as DEET has been linked to numerous health effects. For instance, Mohamed Abou-Donia, Ph.D., a pharmacologist from Duke University Medical Center, spent 30 years researching the adverse effects of pesticides, and found that DEET can impair cell function in parts of the brain.5


Lyme Disease: Introduction

What Is Lyme Disease?

Is Lyme Disease Contagious?

Lyme Disease Causes

Lyme Disease Stages

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme Disease Prevention

Lyme Disease Test

Lyme Disease Diet

Lyme Disease FAQ

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