How can Lyme disease affect the body?
After you have been in nature, it is always best to check yourself for ticks.
If you find one has latched onto your skin, carefully remove it, making sure to remove its entire body and head (often the body can be removed, leaving the head behind, and ticks can survive and re-grow their bodies if the head is still intact).
Sufferers sometimes do not remember being bitten by a tick and start to display the symptoms that they may think are the result of another infection. That is why Lyme disease is known as an imitation disease. In this regard, the infection mimics the common symptoms of other conditions. It is able to infect any organ of the body, including the brain, nervous system, joints, heart and muscles. You normally start to experience fevers, headaches and body aches along with feelings of exhaustion.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
If you experience any of the below symptoms, it is important that you consult with your doctor. As mentioned, these symptoms are also common to other infections, but it is best to let your doctor define the diagnosis.
Lyme disease occurs in three stages of infection, your symptoms will be dependent on the stage you are currently in.
The stages are as follows:
Stage 1 (1-4 weeks): Early localised Lyme disease
The symptoms for this stage normally begin within a few days to weeks after infection from the tick bite. In some cases of Lyme disease, you may not notice signs of infection during this stage.
The bacteria begin to multiply in the bloodstream, with the first sign being that of a red, circular rash. It might look a lot like a ‘bull’s eye’.
This rash will develop at the site of the tick bite. It is not painful or itchy, just warm to touch. It is known as erythema migrans and will most likely disappear within four weeks.
With or without the rash, you may develop flu-like symptoms. These can include:
- A loss of energy
- Having a stiff neck and headache
- A fever and body chills
- Joint and muscle pains
- Inflamed lymph glands
- Vision changes
Stage 2 (1-4 months): Early disseminated Lyme disease
Here, the stages of one and two can overlap. As the bacteria continues to spread, the rash may also spread to other areas of the body. Neurological symptoms may begin to affect the nervous system and heart. Other symptoms can include:
- Multiple erythema migrans skin lesions (these usually appear within 3-5 weeks after tick bite)
- Pain and numbness in the legs or arms
- Inability to move muscles of the face
- Headaches and fainting continue to occur
- Inability to concentrate and loss of short-term memory
- Pinkeye (conjunctivitis) can occur due to damage to the tissue of the eyes
- Brief moments of joint pain, including swelling and redness of the knees or other joints
- Heart problems can develop such as palpitations of the heart (although very rare)
Should you or a loved one be experiencing any of the following symptoms and are in an area known for cases of Lyme disease or have been bitten by a tick, it is important that you seek medical care from your doctor to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.
Stage 3: Late persistent Lyme disease
This stage can occur weeks, months and even years after the time of infection. This stage happens when you have not sought medical care and have not been treated in the previous stages. This is the most dangerous and last stage of the disease. The following symptoms may occur at this stage:
- The knees can become affected by arthritis
- Chronic fatigue
- Numb feeling in the feet, hands or back
- No control over facial muscles
- Memory issues and mood changes
- Heart problems such as inflammation of the structures surrounding the heart
It is important to note that stage two and three may be the first stages you notice, if
infected. This is because some people do not develop the rash. When to see a doctor
When to see a doctor
If you have been bitten by a tick and start to display symptoms, especially if you think the tick has been on you for longer than 24 hours, you should consult with your doctor. The treatment will be far more effective if it is started earlier.
Even if your signs and symptoms disappear, the disease might still be present in your body. If left untreated the infection can spread to other parts of your body.