Lyme disease occurs when a blacklegged tick (Ixodes scapularis or I. pacificus) bites then bores under your skin. The tick carries among other bacteria and viruses, the bacterial spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi). The disease itself begins after the infected tick expels its salivary gland and abdominal substances into the skin where it bit a human. In other words, the tick embeds or bores into the skin and sucks your blood out like a vampire. If the tick goes undetected, it will remain under your skin until it engorges and falls off because its body has ingested so much of your blood its size is nearly ten times its initial size. The tick then molts and then searches for another body to infest.
The actual disease originates from the spirochete bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi found in more than 50% of all blacklegged ticks in the United States, and to a lesser degree, mites, fleas, mosquitoes, and other blood-sucking insects.
Here are some of the symptoms you might look for.
1) You found an embedded tick on your body and feel sick
If a tick has bitten you and you begin to feel sick, you should call your doctor immediately. If your doctor tells you to wait and watch for symptoms, or not to panic, find another doctor. This could be a challenge depending on where you live relative the more pandemic Lyme areas in the country. You may find your way to the ER. The hospital should run basic blood tests or they may try to send you home. Be insistent. It is your right to request to see a specialist. If this does not happen, beg for antibiotics. If you still have the tick, freeze it for testing and identification. You need to know what kind of a tick it is. Different ticks cause different diseases.
Keep in mind, you will likely have better luck learning if you are at risk for Lyme disease by seeing a Lyme Literate Naturopathic Doctor, or Lyme Literate Medical Doctor LLND/LLMD. These are the only doctors skilled enough to make a determination as to whether or not you have Lyme disease. Depending on what state you live in this may be difficult. For example in Oregon, it is against the law for a Doctor to diagnose a person with Lyme disease, especially late stage Lyme disease. Crazy, right? But true. One must be a LLND or LLMD to make the determination.
2) You have the absolute worst case of flu like symptoms ever and want to die
If you found an embedded tick or you believe you were bite by a tick you will likely feel an onset of flu-like symptoms within seven to 14-days, give or take. When these flu-like symptoms begin, you will feel extreme pain everywhere, generally carry a fever.
You will hurt all over, and feel as though you want to die. It is that painful. Everyone reacts differently and it depends on how long the tick was under your skin as to how sick you will likely be. What this means for you – for the next week to 14-days you will be home sick in bed – unless you are a super hero. Symptoms will be a high fever chills, shaking, a sense you can not get warm, but it hurts to have any article of clothing touch your skin. Your muscles hurt, especially your bones.
Be aware, it will likely be difficult to get the help you need. Especially if you live in an area where doctors and health officials do not believe, Lyme disease is a problem. If this is the instance, you will want to seek a LLND or LLMD who can see you. They see hundreds of patients because there are simply not enough to go around. You may have to travel to another state for help. If you live outside of the pandemic range, it becomes more difficult to find a LLND or LLMD.
3) You develop a bull’s eye rash
The bull’s eye rash is one of the first signs of Lyme disease. However, only 40 to 60 percent of people will develop a bull’s eye rash. Not great odds but when it comes to Lyme disease as this increases your chance for being treated as it is definitive proof, regardless of what the CDC (Center for Disease Control) says. If you have the Bull’s Eye Rash, you have Lyme disease and your chances for treatment, with antibiotics, increases. This rash typically accompanies your flu symptoms.
The red circular red rash with contain blister like lesions in the middle surrounded by a 1-2 inch size rough rash around the bull’s eye. This rash will continue to grow for about two to four weeks (or longer in some people). The rash may itch, it may hurt, or it may do both. The rash will eventually go away. It will look like someone drew a very pink, rough red, to blue-red bull’s eye rash on your body at the bite site.
4) You may develop a stiff neck and head ache.
If you have a sore neck along alone or along with a headache, these are symptoms indicative of Lyme disease, and along with the rash, and flu-like symptoms are indicators of early Lyme disease. A stiff neck alone generally is not enough proof you are developing Lyme disease. However, if it does not go away and gets worse go to the ER. There are other illnesses you may have acquired that may lead to Lyme Meningitis, Cranial neuritis or Radiculoneuritis. These are all very serious conditions that require immediate medical treatment. These conditions can begin when Lyme first attacks the nervous system.
Not all people with Early or even Late Stage Lyme disease develop will develop these symptoms. As a precaution, it is important you see a doctor. I will talk more about Late Stage Lyme Disease in another post.
Perhaps one of the worst symptoms associated with Lyme disease is fatigue. Fatigue is more than a feeling of being tired. It is extreme weakness, tiredness, and lethargy. Fatigue is a consistent symptom among all people who suffer from this disease. You will find that along with your flu like symptoms, fatigue will enter into the picture as the disease develops and spreads throughout your body. You will experience fatigue in the early stages of the disease as well as the disease advances. Some professionals will feel this symptom occurs post Lyme disease or as a Post Lyme Syndrome.
6) Swelling & Sun Sensitivity
Swelling is most common during the early stages of the disease and includes swelling of the muscles, joints, and extremities. The effect occurs as the body tries to protect itself from the bacterium that has invaded. Swelling is a natural response to many conditions and, as time goes by, the individual will find that the swelling becomes worse.
Sun sensitivity will often occur alongside swelling of the extremities first then over the entire body. It appears like petechial rash you may see on your arms, legs, and face. As the disease progresses, the symptoms increase and the sun brightness will affect your vision.
7) Heart Problems
If you begin to experience heart problems regardless of your family history, could be an indicator you have related heart problem and simply have not realized it yet. Heart problems are far less common than other symptoms, but in some cases an irregular heartbeat can actually suggest that you have Lyme disease and both are left untreated for a long period of time can become very serious, even fatal.
If you have been bitten by a tick, and suspect you have Lyme disease based on the list of symptoms above, see your doctor. While there is no reason to assume you have Lyme disease because you have developed an irregular heartbeat, you may have developed a serious heart condition.
I never knew about the Lyme related heart irregularities until I developed Lyme disease and began research on the disease. It might have saved me a lot of grief now and 15 years ago.
8) Muscle Numbness
Muscle numbness occurs even during the early stages of Lyme disease making it difficult to move. Numbness or a tingling feeling in muscles all over the body is not normal but could be an indicator of Lyme disease, if a tick bit you. Another common complaint is that the individual has shooting pains that go from the top of the leg to the bottom.
These symptoms are worrisome whether you have Lyme disease or not, so be sure to speak to your doctor as soon as you start experiencing these kinds of serious symptoms.
9) Optic Neuritis
Optic neuritis is a condition where there is inflammation of the optic nerve, the bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from your eye to your brain. Pain and temporary vision loss are common symptoms of optic neuritis.
Lyme disease can cause delayed neurologic symptoms similar to those seen in multiple sclerosis (MS) such as weakness, blurred vision caused by optic neuritis, dysesthesias (sensations of itching, burning, stabbing pain, or “pins and needles”), confusion and cognitive dysfunction, brain fog, and fatigue.
10) Facial drooping
Facial drooping is one of the more serious symptoms of Lyme disease yet rather uncommon. It is important to know about nonetheless. This symptom includes the dropping of the face, similar to Bell’s Palsy where muscles stop working and you find it difficult to speak. Some individuals have experienced this symptom, known as facial palsy, to the extent that it resembles a stroke. This is something very serious and something you should go straight to the hospital.
I experienced all of the above symptoms during early stages of Lyme disease even after treatment fifteen years ago and as the disease progressed. For more on any of these symptoms feel free to contact me, I will also discuss in greater depth the above symptoms in my upcoming book, ‘My life with Lyme’ coming soon.