Lyme Disease

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.

Home care

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 care

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

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© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.