Lyme Disease: What to Watch For - Ascension Wisconsin

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Lyme Disease: What to Watch For

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection primarily transmitted by deer ticks, which are typically found in wooded and grassy areas. Roughly 300,000 cases of Lyme disease occur in the United States annually.

Because the bite of a tick is painless, many people do not even realize they have been bitten. Ticks will embed their heads under the skin where they may feed for several days. The longer attached, the more likely an infected tick will transmit the Lyme and other pathogens into your bloodstream.

Lyme Disease Signs & Symptoms

“The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear in stages,” says Dr. Thomas Mankiewicz, a family medicine physician with Wheaton Franciscan Medical Group in New Berlin. “From 3 to 30 days after an infected tick bite, a rash in the shape of a bull’s-eye pattern may appear. It is typically not itchy or painful.”

This bulls-eye rash is one of the hallmarks of Lyme disease. Some people develop this rash at more than one place on their bodies. Other symptoms that may accompany the rash include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Headache

“If untreated, new signs and symptoms of Lyme infection might appear in the following weeks to months,” explains Dr. Mankiewicz. “This can include joint pain and neurological problems, including inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain (meningitis), temporary paralysis of one side of the face (Bell’s palsy), numbness or weakness in the limbs, or impaired muscle movement.”

Because of the complexity of the symptoms, patients with Lyme disease are frequently misdiagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia or multiple sclerosis.

What to Do if You Have Symptoms of Lyme Disease

“If you’ve been bitten by a tick and have signs and symptoms of Lyme disease,” says Dr. Mankiewicz, “contact your doctor for confirmation. Lyme disease can be effectively treated with antibiotics. The sooner treatment is started, the quicker and more complete the recovery.”

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Lyme Disease: What to Watch For