Lyme Disease Phases
There are three phases in the development of Lyme disease.
Early Localized Phase
During the first phase, a red ring develops around the site of the tick bite. A bull's eye appearance of the ring — a bright red outer ring with clear skin surrounding the reddened bite site — is the main symptom of Lyme disease. Other frequent symptoms are chills, fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle stiffness, and swollen lymph nodes. Symptoms may develop 3 days to 30 days after the tick bite.
Early Disseminated Phase
The Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria continues to spread throughout the body in the weeks and months following the disappearance of the initial rash. It's during this stage that the heart, joints, and nervous system are affected. A patient may experience a wide range of symptoms during the early disseminated phase, including:
- Abnormal pulse rates;
- Changes in vision;
- Enlarged lymph glands;
- Migrating joint pain;
- Sore throat; and
- Tingling or numbing sensations in the extremities.
Late Dissemination Phase
Late dissemination can take place weeks or even years after a tick bite. Again, patients may experience a wide range of symptoms, including:
- Arthritis and joint inflammation;
- Bell's palsy, a common form of facial paralysis;
- Heart inflammation, which can lead to heart failure;
- Peripheral neuropathy; and
- Sleep disturbances.
Most people who receive tick bites don't develop Lyme disease as the development depends on the kind of tick, geographic location when the bite occurred, and how long the tick was attached.
Lyme Disease Treatment
A combination of visual examination and blood tests are used to properly diagnose Lyme disease. Most cases are curable with antibiotics if discovered early. Standard arthritis treatments may be used to assuage joint stiffness.
The best prevention is avoiding tick bites. It's strongly recommended to use insect repellent containing DEET and to wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors. Keep your skin covered by tucking sleeves into gloves and pants into socks.
Check the skin and look for tick bites, especially on children, after returning indoors. If you find a tick, use tweezers to remove it from the skin. Grab the tick by the head or mouthparts as close as possible to the skin. Use firm and steady pressure to pull the tick away from the skin. Clean the wound site with disinfectant and watch for symptoms.