Lyme Disease Home > Lyme Disease Symptoms

People do not always experience the exact same Lyme disease symptoms. A circular rash is one of the first symptoms in 70 to 80 percent of people infected with Lyme disease. Fatigue, joint pain, rash, and swollen lymph nodes are other common symptoms and signs. After several months, approximately 60 percent of people with an untreated infection will begin to have sporadic bouts of arthritis.

Early Lyme Disease Signs and Symptoms

Usually, one of the first signs of infection with Lyme disease is a circular rash called erythema migrans, or EM. This EM rash occurs in approximately 70 to 80 percent of people infected with Lyme disease. It begins at the site of a tick bite about 3 to 30 days after the bite occurs. What sets this rash apart from other rashes is that it gradually expands over a period of several days, reaching up to 12 inches (30 cm) across. The center of the rash may become clear as the rash gets bigger, resulting in a bull's-eye appearance. The EM rash may be warm, but is not usually painful. Some people develop additional EM rashes in other areas of the body after several days. Those who are infected can also experience other symptoms of Lyme disease fairly early, including:
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle and joint aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
In some cases, these may be the only symptoms experienced.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease: Days to Weeks Later

If left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body within a few days to weeks, producing several other symptoms. These later 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 heartbeat
  • Pain that moves from joint to joint.
Many of these Lyme disease symptoms will resolve, even without treatment.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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