Lyme disease is caused by a bite from a tick which is infected with Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. The deer tick is the most well-known carrier of Lyme disease but the bacteria may be carried by Western black-legged ticks as well. There are at least 30,000 confirmed Lyme infection cases in the US each year. See the infographic below for some basic stats.
Lyme disease is a progressive illness occurring in three stages, and ending in a fourth, chronic phase. Progression through the stages of Lyme disease in humans can take a number of months or in some cases, years. Many people with Lyme disease are unaware that they have the infection in the early stages.
Stage 1 Lyme Disease
Symptoms of Lyme disease may begin a few days or weeks after infection. In many cases, you may not know that you have been bitten as ticks that carry Lyme disease are very small and their bites painless.
Stage 1 Lyme Disease Symptoms
Stage 1 is also called “early localized Lyme disease” and may last for 1 to 4 weeks. You may have symptoms including:
- A circular rash that may expand over time (erythema migrans), which may also have a bulls-eye appearance
- Flu-like symptoms, such as:
- Joint and muscle pain
- Stiff neck and headache
- General feeling of illness
- Swollen lymph glands
Symptoms of stage 1 Lyme disease may not always be present. In some cases, Lyme disease symptoms may come and go.
The rash that occurs with Lyme disease occurs at the site of the tick bite. The rash itself is not usually itchy or be painful but may be warm to the touch. In people with light colored skin, the rash may appear to be pink or red, those with darker skin may have a rash that looks more like a bruise.
In most cases, the rash will go away in four weeks but other symptoms may persist or get worse. If Lyme disease is not treated during this stage, it will go on to stage 2 which can affect other areas of the body.