Lyme disease is caused by bacteria. The infection is most often passed during the bite of a deer tick. The tick is very small, so many people with Lyme disease do not know they have been bitten. Tests for Lyme disease are not always accurate early in the disease. If the disease is suspected, treatment may begin before testing confirms the infection. A long course of antibiotics is the standard treatment.
If untreated, Lyme disease can worsen and full-body symptoms can develop
Early local symptoms may appear within a few days to a month after the tick bite. These symptoms may include a round, red rash that looks like a bull's-eye target with darker outer ring and a darker center. There may fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, and headache. In time, the rash goes away, even without treatment. That doesn't mean the infection has gone away, however. In some cases, early local symptoms never develop.
Early disseminated symptoms may appear weeks to months after the bite. These can include muscle aches, fatigue, fever, headache, stiff neck, and joint pain and swelling.
Late-stage symptoms include weakness in an arm, leg or one side of the face, headache, fever, and numbness and tingling in the arms or legs, confusion, and memory loss.
Testing is done for the presence of the bacteria. When the infection is treated early, it can be cured. In some cases, a second or third course of antibiotics may be needed. Be sure to follow your healthcare providers directions about treatment.
If oral antibiotics have been prescribed, take them exactly as directed until they are completely gone. Do not stop taking them until you have taken the full course or your healthcare provider has told you to stop.
Ask your healthcare provider about taking over-the-counter medicines to control symptoms such as aches and fever.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. Be sure to return for follow-up testing as directed to be sure the infection has been treated.
When to seek medical advice
Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the following occur:
Current symptoms get worse
Unexplained fever, neck pain or stiffness, or headache
Arm, leg or facial weakness
Joint pain or swelling
Numbness and tingling in the arms or legs
Confusion or memory loss
Irregular or rapid heartbeat