The symptoms of Lyme disease begin when a person is bitten by a tick infected with Borrelia burgdorferi (the essence Lyme disease). Learning the facts about Lyme disease is an important measure in avoiding it or in effectively treating it once a person has been infected. In the first stages of Lyme disease (between one and four weeks after infection), many don’t know that they’ve been bitten and don’t immediately have any symptoms of Lyme disease.
Signs You May Have Lyme Disease
For others, when symptoms of Lyme disease are present, they are as follows:
- Skin rash (usually resembling a “bulls eye”)
- Muscle and joint pain
- Stiff neck
- Swollen lymph nodes
Left untreated, infected people enter the second stage of Lyme disease symptoms where they may experience:
- Short-term facial paralysis
- Heart problems (arrhythmias or more serious complications)
- Problems affecting the nervous system
- Loss of consciousness
- Damage to eye tissue and/or eye infections
- Cognitive disturbances (reduced concentration and forgetfulness)
This second stage occurs anywhere from four weeks to four months after the initial infection and the initial symptoms of Lyme disease continue to persist as well.
The “bull’s eye” type rash that is one of the common symptoms of Lyme disease, usually begins with a small red dot at the location of the bite. Over a period of several days up to several weeks, however, the dot begins to expand into a “bull’s eye” shape with a red dot in the center surrounded by an empty circle surrounded by a larger red circle. In some cases, the circular rash will simply expand without resembling a “bull’s eye”, but appear to be a large, circular rash. While the rash will begin at the location of the bite, it often can appear on other parts of the body as the infection begins to travel.
When the symptoms of Lyme disease are ignored beyond the second stage, many begin to feel arthritic symptoms as they enter into the third stage of Lyme disease as it has been allowed to spread without effective treatment. In these cases, the arthritis pain most commonly presents itself in the person’s knee joints and may seem to come and go, although most will eventually go on to develop chronic symptoms of arthritis.
Aside from arthritis, people in the third stage of the symptoms of Lyme disease may also experience:
- Swelling of the area around the heart
- Swelling in the brain
- Temporary facial paralysis
- Mood dysfunction
- Sleep disturbances
The third stage in the symptoms of Lyme disease can last for up to six months with many of the arthritic symptoms lingering beyond that time.
In very rare cases, miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births and infant deaths have been attributed to symptoms of Lyme disease. However, these cases are rare and most pregnant women who are promptly treated for early symptoms of Lyme disease have healthy deliveries. Women who exhibit symptoms of Lyme disease while nursing should discuss with their doctors whether to continue breastfeeding during treatment.
In order to avoid the symptoms of Lyme disease, people are advised to avoid heavily wooded areas or areas with a lot of shrubbery or grass, especially during the spring and summer months. If such avoidance isn’t possible, it’s advisable that people wear clothing to protect them when in these areas such as:
- Long pants (tucked into boots or socks)
- Long sleeved shirts
- Light-colored clothing (as ticks are easier to spot in contrast to the light color)
Wearing a safe, non-toxic insect repellant on skin, clothing, and shoes also helps to keep ticks and other pests away. Upon returning from areas where contact with ticks is common, wash all clothing and carefully inspect skin for ticks. When removing a tick, never smash it into the skin, but squeeze it with tweezers at the head until it releases the skin where it is embedded and immediately clean the area.
Certain parts of the United States are more prone to incidents of Lyme disease than are others. These include:The Northeastern portion of the U.S. (primarily from deer ticks)
- The Mid-west (primarily from deer ticks)
- California (primarily from Western blacklegged ticks)
- Oregon (primarily from Western blacklegged ticks)
Traditional medicine classically treats the symptoms of Lyme disease with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory pain-relievers for arthritic symptoms. However, since antibiotic treatments are believed by some to compromise the body’s immune system, many have treated the symptoms of Lyme disease with homeopathic treatments that include, but are not limited to:
- Garlic extracts
- Olive leaf extracts
- Magnesium supplements
A healthy lifestyle includes being educated on conditions that may leave one susceptible to illness. With the symptoms of Lyme disease being largely preventable, holistic health practitioners welcome the knowledge of how to treat the symptoms of Lyme disease early so that if it ever is contracted, individuals are in the best position possible of protecting themselves from the harmful, painful affects of this illness.