What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection caused by a bacteria called a spirochete. Deer ticks (found in northeastern and north central United States) and the blacklegged tick West (found mostly in the Pacific Coast) are the carriers of this disease. Through bites, ticks can spread the disease to animals and humans. Usually, these ticks are about the size of a sesame seed.
Lyme disease is more common in rural and suburban areas of the states in the Northeast and Midwest. Lyme disease is also found in other parts of the United States and in Europe, Asia and Australia.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
One sign of Lyme disease is a rash, which may appear between 3 and 30 days after the tick bite. Usually, the rash begins at the site of the tick bite and could start with a small red spot and grow. The center may fade, which would create a "target" or ring appearance, but this does not always happen. Some people with Lyme disease have many red spots. The rash may hurt or feel warm to the touch.
Other symptoms of Lyme disease in the first stage include:
- Joint and muscle pains.
In rare cases, Lyme disease in the first stage can spread to the heart or nervous system. If Lyme disease spreads to the heart, the person may feel slow or irregular heartbeat. The spread of Lyme disease to the nervous system can cause the face to fall (a condition called Bell's palsy), causing numbness in the arms and legs, or cause swelling of the membranes surrounding the brain (which is called meningitis).
What happens in the later stages of Lyme disease?
If Lyme disease is not treated, it can spread to other parts of the body. The symptoms of Lyme disease in later stages include arthritis (painful, swollen joints) and nervous system problems. Often Lyme arthritis affects only one of the large joints like the knee. Sometimes, it may affect more than one joint.
Although rare, symptoms of nervous system disorder caused by Lyme disease in later stages may include:
- Trouble concentrating.
- Changes in mood.
- Changes in sleeping habits.
- Memory loss.
- Muscle weakness.