Lyme disease is becoming an increasingly prevalent diagnosis and is a major concern in many parts of the country, and particularly in the northeast where it was first discovered. It is a bacterial disease contracted via deer ticks, which can be so miniscule that they aren’t always visible to the naked eye. The good news is that when it is quickly diagnosed it can be easily treated with a course of antibiotics. While you may prefer to avoid antibiotics, in this case, they are necessary if the disease has been contracted. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to diagnose because the symptoms aren’t always what you may expect them to be; it is common for the ticks to do their damage without you even realizing they’ve been there, and because often times test results yield false negatives.
The symptoms of Lyme disease don’t always present themselves immediately which is another challenge in diagnosing the disease, yet when it’s not caught in a timely manner, Lyme disease can be devastatingly debilitating to the joint, muscle, and nervous systems. The most important thing you can do to try to avoid the disease is to arm yourself with the knowledge of what the symptoms of Lyme are and have them checked out by a doctor immediately if you experience any of them.
1. Bulls-eye Rash The most commonly known symptom of Lyme disease is a rash in the shape of a bulls-eye–also known as erythema migrans–that develops around the point of the initial tick bite. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this rash can take up to 30 days to appear and can become as large as 12-inches wide. This rash is not usually itchy but may feel warm and can appear anywhere on the skin.
2. Muscle and Joint Pain Persistent or recurring muscle or joint pain (particularly in the knees or other large joints) that is not caused by recent physical activity may be a sign of Lyme disease. The symptoms of Lyme are very similar to that of arthritis, so if you have joint pain that you’ve never had before or think you are developing arthritis at an early stage it may actually be Lyme disease.
3. Headaches The onset of severe headaches is another sign of Lyme disease. They can range from persistent pain to occasional but intense pain.
4. Fatigue Lyme disease can sometimes feel like you’ve been hit with the flu. If you are so fatigued that you just can’t find the energy to do much of anything or are experiencing fever or chills, it may not be what you think and could very well be Lyme.
5. Facial Palsy The CDC also notes that facial palsy which is the loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face can be a symptom of Lyme disease. As this isn’t something that many people experience, Lyme disease is definitely something that you’ll want to be checked for if you experience it without any other explanation.
It’s important to remember that the symptoms may appear weeks after your exposure to the deer tick or you may not even realize that you’ve been exposed to the deer tick, so if you have any of the above symptoms you should check in with your doctor and be certain that they test you for Lyme disease. And if the symptoms persist without a diagnosis, don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to re-test you or get a second opinion. The long term effects of Lyme disease can make it incredibly hard to function normally and it is possible to avoid them when the symptoms are picked up on within a reasonable time since the exposure to it.