Lyme Disease Symptoms: 5 Signs to Look Out For

If you’re planning on spending your weekend hiking, camping, or running through the woods, then be sure to bring your hat to minimize contact with insects. Healthline explains Lyme disease is caused by the bite of a deer tick that’s carrying the infection. Though the disease is treatable once you know you have it, it can be tough to diagnose, especially if you don’t realize a tick has bitten you. By the time Lyme disease shows early symptoms, it may appear more like you’re getting a nasty cold or the flu. But left untreated, this disease can wreak havoc on your body and cause major health issues down the line. Watch out for these symptoms if you think you may have contracted Lyme disease.

1. Rash

A tick on a finger

Watch out for the appearance of a rash. | iStock.com

One of the hallmark symptoms of Lyme disease in its early stages is a rash, and it’s not uncommon for this rash to have a bull’s-eye pattern. WebMD explains that if your rash has a solid spot in the middle with rings radiating around it, then it’s very likely you could have Lyme. The center of the rash is raised and a deeper red than the rings surrounding it, too.

This rash is so common, in fact, that it affects about 80% of those who get Lyme disease, and it begins about seven days after you’ve been bitten. If you catch this symptom early on, you can treat the disease with antibiotics and expect to fully recover.

2. Flu-like symptoms

young man sick with the flu

Flu-like symptoms are common. | iStock.com

In the beginning stages of Lyme disease, it can be difficult to tell if a tick has bitten you or if you’re just coming down with some sort of sickness. Columbia University Medical Center explains symptoms like headache, fatigue, fever, chills, muscle and joint pains, and swollen lymph nodes are all extremely common with Lyme, though they are all typically accompanied by the bull’s-eye rash.

These flu-like symptoms may begin anywhere between three and 30 days after a bite. Because fever and chills can be signs of many illnesses, you may not consider Lyme disease as the cause at first, making it difficult to diagnose until later on. Be sure to watch for other symptoms that arise in the early stages so you can stop the disease in its tracks.

3. Bell’s palsy

woman massaging her painful neck

Bell’s palsy can affect the nerves in your face. | iStock.com/SIphotography

When Lyme disease is left untreated past its initial stages, the muscles and nerves can become affected. Bell’s palsy is paralysis of the nerve that controls your facial muscles on one side of your face, says Medical News Today. Those who have Bell’s palsy report not being able to control the muscles in their face on one side, and this alarming symptom of Lyme disease can occur suddenly. Though this symptom is somewhat similar to what people will experience after a stroke, Bell’s palsy only affects the face.

This facial paralysis or weakness can also cause eye irritation, drooping by the side of the mouth, drooling, an altered sense of taste, pain around the ear on the affected side of the face, and headaches. Lyme disease is not the only illness that can cause Bell’s palsy, but it certainly is one of them. Steroids and antivirals can greatly assist in Bell’s palsy symptoms, particularly if they are taken within 72 hours of when the symptoms begin.

4. Meningitis

a man rubs his eyes

Meningitis is possible as well. | Thinkstock

Along with the nerves being affected by Lyme disease, the brain can also suffer if the disease is left untreated. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that in the second stage of Lyme disease, numbness and weakness of the body can begin along with symptoms of meningitis. This condition is caused by a viral or bacterial infection that leads to inflammation around the spinal cord and brain.

Meningitis symptoms include intense headaches that may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, stiff neck, fever, and light sensitivity. This more severe symptom of Lyme will not be the first one you see — meningitis symptoms are often accompanied by rashes and flu-like symptoms, so be sure to take note of all ailments and see a doctor immediately when they crop up.

5. Encephalitis

Tired overworked freelancer working with a laptop

Your sleepiness and mood swings could be from encephalitis. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

Encephalitis is another neurological disorder that can accompany this disease. According to Columbia University Medical Center, this type of brain inflammation often leads to sleepiness, mood swings, changes in personality, memory loss, problems with balance, and irritability. Like Bell’s palsy and meningitis, these symptoms are not going to happen in the beginning, but they may occur if Lyme disease goes undiagnosed for a long period of time. Your doctor may request a brain MRI to see if there is any inflammation visible around the brain, and antivirals or antibiotics are commonly given to those who have these symptoms.