Lyme Disease Symptoms

In summer months, the active woman must think about the possibility of contracting Lyme disease. Constant hiking, mountain-climbing or even just exploring puts her in direct risk of wandering into a tick-infested area, which in turn puts her at risk of contracting Lyme disease.


What Is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease comes from the bite of an infected deer tick. The bite may look so unassuming that you will either miss it entirely or pass it off as an insect bite. Most people do not know that they have been bitten by a deer tick because they are so small, about the size of a comma.

A tick bite might look harmless, but the bacteria that the tick carries can cause Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Some experts believe that the tick has to be attached for at least 24 hours to transmit the bacteria to a person who has been bitten. Therefore, it is important to do a tick check as soon as you leave a wooded area and, if you find one, remove it from your skin as soon as possible.

Lyme disease is more common during the summer months, and although it was once thought to be found mostly in the northern United States, cases have been documented in all 50 states.

Symptoms and Progression of Lyme Disease

Once you have contracted Lyme disease, it progresses in 3 stages of symptoms. In the first stage, within two to three weeks after the initial bite, your skin may develop a rash, commonly referred to as a bull's-eye or target rash, due to its shape. The rash will begin as a large red spot that can be either flat or bumpy. It will expand over a couple of days, usually in a circular, or bull's-eye pattern. At this time, the center of the bite will probably clear, although occasionally the rash blisters or scabs in the center. This rash can appear anywhere, and the area can feel warm to the touch, although not painful. The bull's-eye rash only appears in approximately 50 percent of people who contract Lyme disease.

Flu symptoms may accompany this rash, as well. The rash should fade after a couple of weeks, with or without treatment. You should go to your primary physician immediately if you have had a deer tick attached to you and are having symptoms, as waiting for or putting off treatment can cause years of moderate to severe symptoms, and some, although rarely, could be life threatening.

Stage two of the disease can lead to devastating symptoms. Symptoms usually affect the nervous system and can include meningitis (inflammation of the brain lining and spinal cord), encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) and cranial neuritis (inflammation of the cranial nerves). About 8 percent of patients in this stage can also display problems with the heart. It is also common to see joint problems during this stage, though these will fade as the disease wanes.

Stage three of Lyme disease occurs anywhere from a few weeks to two years after initial contraction. Arthritis is the main problem in this stage, affecting patients in both temporary episodes and/or continuously. Symptoms can include numbness in extremities, trouble with concentration, weakness and depression.

Lyme disease is diagnosed through a conclusive examination and/or a blood test. Antibiotics are available to combat the disease, although if the patient has reached stage 2 or 3, further medical attention will be needed.

Diagnosing, Treating and Preventing Lyme Disease

The best way to combat Lyme disease is through prevention. Knowing what causes this disease and practicing countermeasures can drastically reduce its spread.

When hiking, spray on tick repellent, tuck your pants into your shoes and cover as much of your skin as possible. If you do get bitten by a tick, remove it as soon as possible and clean the area as thoroughly as possible. If you take the necessary countermeasures, the risk of contracting Lyme disease will be very very low.

One of the scary things about Lyme disease is that many who contract it get bitten in their own backyards, and because the deer tick is so small, it can become engorged and fall off before a person knows they have been bitten. Thus, it's important to check for tick bites and to pay attention to changes in your health.

Symptoms can be so vague that they are passed off as a virus and treatment is delayed, resulting in debilitating symptoms. Lyme disease is called "the great mimicker" because so many illnesses have the same symptoms, and often Lyme disease is missed. Be vigilant, and see your doctor at the first sign of infection. Be sure to let him or her know that Lyme disease is a possibility.