7. Sensitivity to light and vision changes
Bright indoor light may feel uncomfortable or even blinding.
Light sensitivity is bad enough for some people to need sunglasses indoors, in addition to wearing sunglasses outdoors in normal light.
Light sensitivity was found in 16 percent of adults with early Lyme (15).
In the same study, 13 percent reported blurry vision.
8. Other neurological problems
Neurological symptoms can be subtle and sometimes specific.
In general, you may feel unsure of your balance or less coordinated in your movements.
Walking down a slight incline on your driveway might take an effort that it never did before.
You might trip and fall more than once, although this never happened to you before.
Some Lyme effects are very specific.
For example, the Lyme bacteria may affect one or more of your cranial nerves. These are the 12 pairs of nerves that come from your brain to your head and neck area.
If the bacteria invade the facial nerve (the seventh cranial nerve), you can develop muscle weakness or paralysis on one or both sides of your face. This palsy is sometimes mistakenly called Bell’s palsy. Lyme disease is one of the few illnesses that cause palsies on both sides of the face. Or you may have numbness and tingling on your face.
Other affected cranial nerves can cause loss of taste and smell.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study of 248,074 reported Lyme disease cases nationwide from 1992 to 2006 found that 12 percent of Lyme patients had cranial nerve symptoms (9).
As the Lyme bacteria spread through the nervous system, they can inflame the tissues where the brain and spinal cord meet (the meninges).
Some of the common symptoms of Lyme meningitis are neck pain or stiffness, headache, and light sensitivity. Encephalopathy, which alters your mental state, is less common.
These neurological symptoms occur in about 10 percent of adult individuals with untreated Lyme disease (18).
9. Skin outbreaks
Skin symptoms appear early in Lyme (21).
You may have unexplained skin rashes or large bruises without usual cause.
Skin outbreaks may be itchy or unsightly. They could also be more serious, such as B cell lymphoma (21).
Other skin ailments associated with Lyme are:
- morphea, or discolored patches of skin (21)
- lichen sclerosus, or white patches of thin skin (21)
- parapsoriasis, a precursor to skin lymphoma
In Europe, some of the skin diseases that result from Lyme transmitted by a different Borrelia species are:
- borrelial lymphocytoma, which is common in Europe as an early Lyme marker (22)
- acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans (21)
10. Heart problems
Lyme bacteria can invade your heart tissue, a condition called Lyme carditis.
Carditis can range from mild to severe.
The bacterial interference in your heart can cause chest pains, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or heart palpitations (23).
The inflammation caused by the infection blocks the transmission of electrical signals from one chamber of the heart to the other, so the heart beats irregularly. This is known as heart block.
Lyme can also affect the heart muscle itself.
How common is Lyme carditis? Here are some statistics:
- The CDC reports that only 1 percent of reported Lyme cases involve carditis (23).
- Other studies report that 4 to 10 percent of Lyme patients (or more) have carditis (24, 25). However, these figures may include a broader definition of carditis.
- Children can also have Lyme carditis (24).
With treatment, most people will recover from an episode of Lyme carditis. However, it has caused occasional deaths. The CDC reported three sudden Lyme carditis deaths from 2012–2013 (26).