As more and more people are getting diagnosed with Lyme disease, more and more people are having to ask themselves, “Do I have Lyme disease?” Because of this, it’s important to take every precaution possible. If you think you may have gotten infected from one of those nasty ticks, keep reading for everything you need to know about Lyme disease.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by the bite of a deer tick or black-legged tick and is now the most common disease transmitted to humans via blood-sucking pests in the U.S. It is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi.
Lyme is not contagious, but you may have been infected if you have recently spent time outside camping, gardening, hunting in bushy areas with tall grass or have been in areas where deer are abundant. Combine that with a development of flu-like symptoms, and it is likely you were bitten by a tick and are developing the beginning symptoms.
Lyme has been reported in all 50 states, and though it is not exclusive to one region, it is most commonly spread in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. If you live in these areas, there is also a higher likelihood that it is Lyme.
However, if you see that you have been bitten by a tick, it is vital that you remove the tick quickly and correctly. There’s no way to know if the tick has definitely infected you unless you begin to develop flu-like symptoms or a bullseye rash (erythema migrans). However, not everyone develops flu-like symptoms or a rash. Some argue that you will not be infected unless the tick has been latched on for at least 36 hours, but many would argue that it is not always the case.
I found a bullseye rash, what do I do?
A bullseye rash usually presents itself 3 to 30 days after the tick bite, according to the CDC.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these rashes may be smooth, but warm to the touch, cause a burning sensation, are itchy and painful, and have a scaly outer edge.
As time goes on, lumps and small, oval rashes may appear as the bacteria spreads throughout the body if left untreated. Skin may progressively get worse (such as hardening and shrinking) if Lyme is not properly treated for.
If you find a rash, stay calm and contact your doctor immediately. Try to remember where you could have been exposed to a tick.
Yes! Even if you did not get the classic bullseye rash, you could still have Lyme disease! In fact, erythema migrans does not always present itself as a bullseye rash AND less than half of those infected get a rash at all. (Bay Area Lyme Foundation)
What are the standard symptoms of Lyme disease?
The classic Lyme symptoms after being bitten by a tick are flu-like symptoms (fever and chills, sore throat, headaches) and a bullseye rash.
Standard symptoms of Lyme that may persist include, but are not limited to:
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Brain fog
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Neck pain
- Irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain
- Facial palsy
- Hearing loss
LymeNow community member Lindsey has Lyme disease and she explains here symptoms like this.
Should I go to the doctor?
If a doctor does not seem open to your concerns, do not feel crazy or become defeated. Listen to your gut and keep trying to get the help you need. It is not uncommon for Lyme symptoms to be misdiagnosed as other diseases. Many people receive false negative test results for Lyme but ultimately, still have it.
Do antibiotics always work as a treatment for Lyme disease?
Antibiotics have been found to be most effective when taken soon after being bitten. Some people do not continue to have symptoms after a round of antibiotics, but many people continue to have persisting and lasting symptoms that debilitate them. Multiple rounds of antibiotics has not been proven to be more effective, though, so those suffering with Post-treatment Lyme Disease Symptoms (Chronic Lyme Disease) often look elsewhere for relief.
It’s going to be okay.
If you suspect you may have Lyme or are currently dealing with the consequences of persisting Lyme symptoms or misdiagnosis, don’t panic. The LymeNow community is here to help you. Lyme is so scary. If you develop chronic Lyme due to mistreatment, it can be a long and painful road, but there is a support system in place. The Lyme community doesn’t receive all the help it needs, nor do we have we have enough answers, but we are learning more everyday.
So, if you suspect you have Lyme disease…
Be sure to visit a doctor immediately! Ask them to specifically test for Lyme and how to treat your symptoms. You may not ever get flu-like symptoms or a bullseye rash. You may never remember getting bitten by a tick. If at any point, you begin to develop any symptoms, though, don’t count Lyme disease out and don’t let any doctor make you question if you should be tested. Your best chance at addressing Lyme bacteria is in its earliest stages.