13 Signs and Symptoms of Lyme Disease

 11. Mood changes

Lyme can affect your moods.

You may be more irritable, anxious, or depressed.

Twenty-one percent of early Lyme patients reported irritability as a symptom. Ten percent of Lyme patients in the same study reported anxiety (15).

12. Unexplained pain and other sensations

Some people with Lyme may have sharp rib and chest pains that send them to the emergency room, suspecting a heart problem (27).

When no problem is found, after the usual testing, the ER diagnosis is noted as an unidentified “musculoskeletal” cause.

You can also have strange sensations like skin tingling or crawling, or numbness or itchiness (27).

Other symptoms have to do with cranial nerves.

  • Ear-ringing (tinnitus). Tinnitus can be a nuisance, especially at bedtime when it seems to get louder as you’re trying to fall asleep. About 10 percent of people with Lyme experience this (15).
  • Hearing loss. One study reported that 15 percent of Lyme patients experienced loss of hearing (28).
  • Jaw pain or toothaches that are not related to actual tooth decay or infection.

13. Regression and other symptoms in children

Children are the largest population of Lyme patients.

The CDC study of reported Lyme cases from 1992–2006 found that the incidence of new cases was highest among 5- to 14-year-olds (9). About one quarter of reported Lyme cases in the United States involve children under 14 years old (29).

Children can have all the signs and symptoms of Lyme that adults have, but they may have trouble telling you exactly what they feel or where it hurts.

You may notice a decline in school performance, or your child’s mood swings may become problematic.

Your child’s social and speech skills or motor coordination may regress. Or your child may lose their appetite.

Children are more likely than adults to have arthritis as an initial symptom (25).

In a 2012 Nova Scotian study of children with Lyme, 65 percent developed Lyme arthritis (30). The knee was the most commonly affected joint.

What to do if you suspect Lyme disease

If you have some of the signs and symptoms of Lyme, see a doctor — preferably one familiar with treating Lyme disease!

The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) can provide a list of Lyme-aware doctors in your area (31).

What about tests?

The commonly used ELISA test is not a reliable indicator for many Lyme patients (32).

The Western blot test tends to be more sensitive, but it still misses 20 percent or more of Lyme cases (32).

If you don’t have the initial Lyme rash, diagnosis is usually based on your symptoms and your potential exposure to blacklegged ticks. The doctor will rule out other possible diseases that may cause the same symptoms.

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. Don’t twist when removing it. Don’t crush it or put soap or other substances on it. Don’t 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 it’s a blacklegged tick and if there’s 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.

Antibiotics work

If you have the classic Lyme rash or other symptoms of early Lyme, you’ll need at least three weeks of oral antibiotics. Shorter courses of treatment have resulted in a 40 percent relapse rate (33).

Even with three weeks of antibiotics, you may need one or more courses of antibiotics if your symptoms return.

Lyme is tricky and affects different people in different ways. The longer you’ve had symptoms, the more difficult it is to treat.

The bottom line

Lyme is a serious tick-borne disease with a wide range of symptoms.

If you get treated as soon as possible with an adequate course of antibiotics, you’ll have a better outcome.

Finding a Lyme-aware doctor is important.

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