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The Stages of Lyme Disease

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What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease, or Lyme borreliosis, is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Borrelia. In North America, Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii are the typical cause of Lyme disease. In Europe and Asia, Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garini are the typical cause of Lyme disease. The bacteria is spread to humans via the bite of an infected tick, a deer tick or black legged tick.

There are 3 stages to Lyme disease: early localized disease, early disseminated Lyme disease, and late disseminated Lyme disease. The symptoms an individual may experience can depend on what stage of the disease they are in.


Stage 1: Early Localized Disease

These symptoms of lyme disease can appear anywhere between 3 to 30 days after the tick bite. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Red, bulls-eye type rash, otherwise known as Erythema migrans.
  • The areas of the rash will be warm to the touch but not painful
  • The rash can reach up to 12 inches across and typically occurs around the source of the tick bite
  • The rash will disappear after 4 weeks
  • Stage 2: Early Disseminated Lyme Disease

    This stage takes place weeks after a tick bite. Symptoms from stage 1 and stage 2 can overlap. It is characterized by flu like symptoms, including:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Vision changes
  • Rash, that may appear in other areas
  • Neurological symptoms, i.e. numbness, tingling
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stage 3: Late Disseminated Lyme Disease

    This stage occurs if the infection has not been treated in stage 1 or stage 2. It can occur weeks, months or years after the initial tick bite.
    Symptoms can include:

  • Severe headaches
  • Arthritis, in one or more joints
  • Disturbance in heart rhythm
  • Brain disorders such as encephalopathy
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mental fogginess
  • Problems following conversations
  • Numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet
  • Speech problems
  • Abnormal muscle movement
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness and tingling
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