About Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick and is also the most common disease spread by ticks in the Northern Hemisphere. It is estimated to affect 300,000 people a year in the United States and 65,000 people a year in Europe. Infections are most common in the spring and early summer.

Early symptoms soon after exposure by tick bite:

  • Skin rash around tick bite – often hot to the touch but not painful; may have bullseye shape. Not everyone gets a rash! (The Maine CDC published in their Legislative Report of February 2014, that only 57% of Maine patients who fit the surveillance criteria had a rash, and that is actually an increase from 2011 when only 43% of confirmed cases had a rash.)
  • Erythema migrans (EM) – the official name for the tick bite skin rash
  • Mild illness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Malaise
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headaches
  • Stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Body aches
  • Neck aches
  • Arthritis
  • Joint pain
  • Knee arthritis

Neurological symptoms – often occurring some time after exposure, from weeks to years later.

  • Numbness
  • Limb pain
  • Limb weakness
  • Radiculitis (numbness, tingling, burning)
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Visual disturbances
  • Poor motor coordination
  • Encephalopathy
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Change in mood
  • Changed sleeping habits
  • Thinking difficulties
  • Nerve damage – in the arms and legs
  • Encephalomyelitis-symptoms
  • Limb weakness
  • Motor coordination problems
  • Muscle weakness
  • Meningitis symptoms
  • Fever
  • Stiff neck
  • Severe headache
  • Heart abnormalities – heart problems
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Not all patients with Lyme disease will have all symptoms, some can be specific to neurological, heart, psychiatric, or physical (muscle & joint pain, etc.) The symptoms can also present differently at various stages of the disease progression. Some patients do experience all the types of symptoms as this is a multi-systemic infection, infecting multiple parts of the body and causing extensive symptoms. To complicate matters, many of the symptoms are not specific to Lyme disease, and can occur in many other diseases as well. This is why it is known as “The great imitator” and can make it very hard to properly diagnose.

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