Symptoms of Lyme Disease
While symptoms of Lyme disease can affect several parts of the body, producing a variety of symptoms, in many people, a circular rash is the first symptom to appear. This appears in the majority of people who have the disease. Other Lyme disease symptoms include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and headache.
The first sign of a Lyme disease infection is usually a circular rash, called erythema migrans, or EM. This rash occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of people infected with Lyme disease, and begins at the site of a tick bite after a delay of 3 to 30 days.
A distinctive feature of the rash is that it gradually expands over several days, reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) across. The center of the rash may become clear as it enlarges, resulting in a bull's-eye appearance. The rash may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some people develop additional EM rashes in other areas of the body after several days.
A person can also experience other early symptoms of Lyme disease, including:
- Muscle and joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes.
In some cases, these may be the only symptoms that a person ever develops.
If left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body within a few days to weeks, producing an array of symptoms. These next-stage Lyme disease symptoms can include:
- Loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face (called facial or Bell's palsy)
- Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis
- Shooting pains that may interfere with sleep
- Heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in the heartbeat
- Pain that moves from joint to joint.
Many of these symptoms will get better, even without treatment.