Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted by tick bites, so it is very frequent in people who work or like spending time in wooded or grassy areas.
There are different species of bacteria involved in Lyme disease, but the most common are Borrelia burgdorferia and Borrelia mayonii (common in the U.S), and Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii bacteria (common in Europe and Asia).
A person bitten by an infected tick may show symptoms of the disease within a few days, but in other cases, the person may not show any symptom until the disease is in an advanced stage. In both cases, the patient must visit a doctor as soon as the symptoms appear.
These are the most common symptoms of Lyme disease, which appear in three distinct stages:
1. Rash (or Erythema migrans)
The rash in Lyme disease is one of the most characteristic symptoms. In fact, it is estimated that it appears in approximately 70 to 80% of all infected people.
The rash starts between 3 and 30 days after the bite, in the area where the person was bitten by the tick. However, in advanced stages, the rash can appear in other areas of the body too. After that, it expands slowly and can reach an approximate size of 12 inches (30 centimeters) across.
The rash can have many characteristics. One commonly known rash is called the ‘bullseye’, where some areas of the rash get clear while it enlarges, creating the appearance of a target or ‘bullseye’. Lyme disease rashes usually don’t itch or produce pain. Here are some examples:
2. Flu-like symptoms
These symptoms also appear between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite, so if the person doesn’t remember being bitten and has not developed a rash yet, both patients and doctors can confuse Lyme disease with the flu.
The patient usually experiences mild symptoms like headache, fatigue, muscles aches, swollen lymph nodes, among others. In advanced stages of the disease, the symptoms can be more severe and even cause a stiff neck, which can cause pain when moving and can confuse the disease with meningitis.
Some patients don’t experience these symptoms during the first stage of the diseases which makes it more difficult the diagnose.
Fever and chills are also frequent symptoms. The fever is usually mild, but in some patients the temperature can be higher and difficult to control.
These symptoms usually appear at the same time as the flu-like symptoms.
4. Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms are more common in people who have been infected by the bacteria Borrelia mayonii. However, these symptoms are not specifics of the disease, and because they are not constantly present it can make diagnosis more difficult in the first stages.
Second stage on next page…