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Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Lyme Disease: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Lyme Disease

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a severe condition that’s transmitted to human beings by deer ticks (blacklegged ticks). It’s also known as borreliosis. The tick infects humans with the bacterium known as Borrelia burgdorferi, which the tick catches when it bites the deer or mice bearing it. A rash can appear at first, but it can diminish without treatment. However, the patient can ultimately develop issues with the heart, nervous system and joints (x).

Lyme disease (borreliosis) is the top infectious condition in the United States. The first reported case of Lyme disease in the U.S. occurred in Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1977 (x). The CDC reported 28,453 possible Lyme disease cases in 2015, which equates to around 9 cases out of every 100,000 people (x). Geographically, Pennsylvania reported the highest number of confirmed cases — 7,351 in total. The Upper Midwest, New England and Mid-Atlantic are the areas most susceptible to ticks that may transmit Lyme disease (x).

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Early Lyme disease symptoms tend to be very mild. Some people might not have any symptoms, or may think they’ve contracted the flu. After the early stages, further symptoms occur. Symptoms may go away, but the disease may affect the body in various ways many years later.

Early Lyme Disease (Stage 1)

In the early phase of Lyme disease, a rash called erythema migraines (EM) develops within 3-30 days of infection, or an average of about seven days (x). Erythema migraines impact 70-80 percent of persons who have Lyme disease. The rash also exhibits the following traits:

  • Isn’t itchy or painful, but can be warm to the touch
  • Usually begins at the location of the bite but may occur elsewhere with the spread of the bacteria
  • Usually starts as a tiny red spot that enlarges over several days, eventually reaching a diameter of 30 centimeters or 12 inches
  • Can lose color in the middle, causing a bull’s-eye appearance

The rash can be less noticeable on darker skin.

Early Disseminated Lyme Disease (Stage 2)

After roughly four weeks, the rash will typically go away even without treatment. However, other symptoms may occur within days to months of being bitten. These include (x):

  • Fever and chills
  • Additional rashes
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Inflammation of the spinal cord and brain (meningitis), resulting in a stiff neck and headaches
  • Shortness of breath and dizziness
  • Bell’s palsy (muscle tone loss in both sides or one side of the face)
  • Irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations
  • Shooting pains and nerve pain, tingling or numbness in the feet or hands
  • Pain in muscles, joints, tendons and bones, particularly in the major joints

These symptoms may disappear without treatment within weeks to months, but the individual may eventually suffer further complications. If you suspect you have Lyme disease, seek medical treatment right away. Early treatment is advisable.

Late Disseminated Lyme Disease (Stage 3)

Also called late Lyme disease, late disseminated Lyme disease can be the first indication of infection in some individuals. Symptoms can appear within weeks to even years after the first infection if the individual hasn’t received treatment, or if antibiotics haven’t been fully effective (x).

Some patients may have these signs as the first indication of illness. They may involve issues with the heart and nervous system. The individual may have the following:

  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Paralysis of facial muscles
  • Vision and sleep problems
  • Memory loss
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Numbness, tingling and pain

About 60 percent of untreated people will suffer recurrent episodes of arthritis plus severe joint swelling, particularly in the major joints (x).

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Lyme Disease Causes

Lyme disease comes as a result of a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi, or B. burgdorferi. Deer ticks, also called blacklegged ticks, may carry these bacteria. But not all tick species carry these bacteria.

Young ticks are known as nymphs and collect bacteria when they suck blood from small rodents like mice, infected with Borrelia burgdorferi. You can contract the disease if you’re bitten by an infected deer tick.

Risk factors for this condition include:

  • Walking in tall grasses
  • Owning a pet that can carry infected deer ticks home
  • Performing outdoor activities that may raise tick exposure (such as gardening, hiking or hunting) in a region where Lyme disease develops

Important facts about Lyme disease and tick bites include (x):

  • A tick can only pass the bacteria on to your blood if it’s been on your body for 24-36 hours
  • Blacklegged ticks (deer ticks) can be so tiny that they’re virtually impossible to see — most Lyme disease patients never even feel or see any tick on their bodies
  • Most individuals who get tick bites don’t catch Lyme disease

Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics, but the stage of the disease one has determines the kind of antibiotic used. After removing a blacklegged tick that’s been attached to your body for not less than 36 hours, there is a 72-hour period during which your physician can give a dose of doxycycline antibiotic to prevent the onset of Lyme disease (x). This antibiotic is prescribed to anyone over 8 years old, except pregnant women.

If you’ve already got stage 1 or stage 2 Lyme disease with no significant symptoms except the characteristic bull’s eye rash, your doctor will almost certainly treat you with oral amoxicillin, cefuroxime or doxycycline for 14-21 days.

But if you’ve got nerve problems or meningitis from stage 1 Lyme disease, you’ll need to take ceftriaxone intravenously for 14 days (x).

Stage 3 Lyme disease is treated with a variety of antibiotics, too:

  • For arthritis-causing Lyme disease, oral doxycycline, cefuroxime or amoxicillin is prescribed for 28 days — additional antibiotic courses may be needed, depending on the persistence and severity of your symptoms
  • If you have Lyme disease that affects your nervous system, 2-4 weeks of intravenous penicillin or ceftriaxone is prescribed (x)

Common side effects of most antibiotics include digestive problems such as diarrhea, vomiting and nausea. Allergic reactions can occur, too, especially with medicines derived from sulfa or penicillin.

Antibiotics may interact with some drugs, so let your doctor know about any medicines you’re taking.

What Can You Do if You Get a Tick Bite?

If you suffer a tick bite, here are steps to take to remove it (x):

  • Don’t squeeze the body of the tick with tweezers or your fingers
  • Don’t use petroleum jelly, cigarette butts or kerosene to get rid of the tick
  • Swab the area of the bite thoroughly with antiseptic to keep bacterial infection at bay
  • To reduce the risk of contact with bacteria that causes Lyme disease, don’t handle the tick with your bare hands or crush the tick’s body
  • Tug firmly but gently around the tick’s head with blunt tweezers until it loosens its grip on the skin

Supplements for Lyme Disease

These supplements can help boost your immune system and treat Lyme disease naturally. Be sure to consult your doctor before using any of them.

See Also

Cordyceps Powder

Cordyceps is a nutritious mushroom that fights aging and boosts athletic performance. It contains no additives or fillers. Take 1,500 milligrams of this dietary supplement, 2-3 times a day, or as recommended by a doctor.

Kudzu Extract Powder

Kudzu extract powder contains 40 percent isoflavones — estrogen like substances believed to provide multiple health benefits. It’s typically useful for conditions like alcoholism, common cold, fever and diabetes. It also helps fight cravings. The recommended dosage for kudzu extract powder is 1,200 milligrams, taken 1-2 times a day. It’s best to take it with food.

Thiamin HCL Powder

Thiamine (vitamin B1) may boost energy, help with weight management and promote immune and heart health. It may also enrich mood, focus and memory. You should take up to 100 milligrams of thiamine HCL powder daily, depending on your doctor’s recommendation or intended effect.

Pure Arginine Base Powder

L-arginine is a potent amino acid that supports healthy joints, skin and heart function. It may also improve athletic endurance. The suggested dosage for L-arginine base powder is 750 milligrams, taken thrice a day without meals. But individual needs might vary.

Pure Nattokinase Powder

Nattokinase may benefit heart health and promote strong bones. It’s extracted from natto, a Japanese food derived from soybeans. It’s recommend that you take 100 milligrams of pure nattokinase powder 1-3 times daily, depending on your preferred effect.

Pure Acetyl L-Carnitine ALCAR Powder

Acetyl-carnitine may be able to provide various benefits that promote overall mental health. It’s an antioxidant too. Take ALCAR in doses of 600 milligrams, 1-3 times daily, depending on your intended effect.

The Bottom Line

Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of deer ticks. The risk of developing this bacterial infection normally depends on the tick species that bites a person and how long the tick stayed on the body of the individual. A deer tick must stay on your body for 24-36 hours to pass Lyme disease on to you.

Lyme disease may cause a wide variety of symptoms, based on the phase of infection. Symptoms include arthritis, facial paralysis, rash, fever, as well as tingling, numbness and pain. Seek medical treatment if you exhibit any of the above symptoms and have been bitten by a tick, have recently visited a place where Lyme disease develops or live in an area prone to Lyme disease (x).

Borrelia burgdorferi refers to the bacteria that bring on Lyme disease. People typically contract the disease through a bite from an infected deer tick, which sucks on the blood of mammals, reptiles, birds and amphibians. You can get a tick bite when walking through shrubs or tall grasses. Lyme disease doesn’t spread through person-to-person contact (x).

When diagnosed early, Lyme disease may be successfully treated with antibiotics. Commonly used antibiotics are taken orally and include doxycycline, cefuroxime axetil, or amoxicillin. People with heart or nerve issues may require intravenous treatment with penicillin or ceftriaxone.

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