Lyme disease is a type of bacterial infection that you get from usually black-legged infected ticks. Exposure to these ticks can come from being outdoors or even from pets who carry them, such as dogs, cats, and rabbits.
The bacterial species that causes Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi) is difficult to kill. Therefore, antibiotics, and often, multiple courses of them are typically required to kill the disease.
There are many common signs and symptoms when Lyme disease first occurs, and others take more time to set in. You should never wait to get a checkup if you think you have Lyme disease. Waiting can increase symptom severity and lead to much more severe signs and symptoms that can jeopardize your health.
If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Ticks should always be removed immediately after spotting.
Table of Contents
- Signs & Symptoms of Lyme Disease
- Cause and Risk Factors of Lyme Disease
- Ways to Boost Your Immunity during Lyme Disease
Signs & Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Do you think you have Lyme disease? Find out more about some common signs, symptoms, and causes of Lyme disease, as well as some ways to avoid getting this disease below.
A rash, usually in the shape of a target, is the most common first signal of Lyme disease. The type of rash is called Erythema migrans (EM).
In those with Lyme disease, 70 to 80 percent of infected individuals get this type of rash. You can typically expect this rash at the site of the tick bite, and it often gets larger as the days go on.
It is rarely itchy or painful but may be warm, and it may appear anywhere on the body. Other rashes can also occur that are not in the shape of a target or “bull’s eye.” (1)
2. Fever and the Chills
Fever and chills are other common symptoms of this bacterial infection. (2) The chills are usually a sign of an illness, but that is not always the case. Someone can present with a fever and have no chills as well.
If you experience a fever or chills with the rash, there is a good chance you may have an infection of Lyme disease through a tick bite.
Always be sure to consult your doctor if you experience any of these common symptoms.
3. Weight Loss
Weight loss can happen with Lyme disease because of the nature of the disease. It is a bacterial infection, and weight loss can be a common sign of those.
Some other examples of bacterial infections that can cause weight loss are Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO), Fasciitis, and more. (3)
Weight loss can commonly occur because of other symptoms like diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. (IBS)
That is a less common symptom of Lyme disease, but it does not hurt to look out for something like this. Weight loss can occur for many different reasons, so it can be hard to tell if this is the leading reason in many cases.
4. Fatigue or Adrenal Exhaustion
Fatigue and exhaustion may also be a significant symptom of Lyme disease.
While fatigue is a common symptom for many diseases, adrenal exhaustion and dysfunction can be critical to consider for Lyme disease patients.
There have been some studies that show some significance in taking a closer look at the hormone health of patients with Lyme disease. That can mean examining the stress hormone, cortisol, and much more.
In one study in the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there was a link with the occurrence of longer-lasting symptoms after Lyme disease and cortisol response with adrenal insufficiency. (4) While more research is necessary, this symptom can come up for some.
General fatigue, however, is present in most people who present with Lyme disease. Always look out for this symptom if you think you have the infection.
Many types of headaches can arise from Lyme disease because the bacterial infection causes flu-like symptoms. Problems can range from dull and mild to severe.
Often headaches can be ignored because of how dull and mild they are, especially when it comes to Lyme disease.
The type of bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Spirochetes, can pass into the central nervous system and cause headaches. (5) It enters the blood-brain barrier, and it can cause different variations of headaches for many infected.
6. Swollen Lymph Nodes or Neck Stiffness
Swollen lymph nodes or neck stiffness are other common symptoms that many can expect with Lyme disease. Some people even refer to this symptom as “missing the bull’s eye.”
That is because the bacteria that cause Lyme disease can hide in the lymph nodes causing swelling and even neck stiffness.
That can also trigger a severe immune response. Swollen lymph nodes and neck stiffness can be uncomfortable and even affect everyday drinking and eating. Contact your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
7. Facial Palsy
Only around 5 percent of patients with Lyme disease develop facial palsy. Facial palsy is, or Bell’s palsy is a type of paralysis where one side of the face droops.
That can be because the swelling of the nerves controls the muscles in the face.
Sometimes Lyme disease can be hard to diagnose if common symptoms do not arise like the target rash. It is critical to be aware of all symptoms in case you develop a less common one. (6)
8. Nerve, Joint, and Muscle Pain
With any bacterial infection, there can be a pain in the nerves, muscles, or joints, but that is especially true for Lyme disease.
The pain can be in the nerves, muscles, or joints, affecting those considerably with arthritis and other bone disorders.
Typically, you can expect the pain from Lyme disease to be in the knees or other larger joints. Always be on the lookout for flareups and symptoms that you are new to you.
9. Numbness or Tingling in Hands and Feet
Beyond joint, muscle, and nerve pain, there is also the chance that numbness and tingling in the extremities can occur with Lyme disease.
Sometimes the nerve pain can go hand in hand with numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
Consult with your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially multiple ones on the list.
10. Heart Palpitations
Heart palpitations can occur for several reasons, ranging far beyond bacterial infections like Lyme disease. But Lyme disease can bring about heart murmurs and a fast heartbeat as well.
The reason Lyme disease can affect your heart is that the bacteria that causes it enters the heart tissue.
The bacteria then cause interference with electrical tissues in the heart, resulting in palpitations for an irregular heartbeat. This symptom can often time come with chest pain or shortness of breath as well.
11. Dizziness or Shortness of Breath
Feeling faint or suffering from shortness of breath often goes along with heart palpitations.
Lyme disease, also known as Lyme carditis, comes with multiple symptoms, including the ones on this list.
If you experience dizziness, shortness of breath, or any other common symptom listed here, you may have Lyme disease. Always consult with your doctor to get tested so you can receive antibiotic treatment immediately.
Cause and Risk Factors of Lyme Disease
The cause of Lyme disease is through a black-legged tick bite. The bacterium is Borrelia burgdorferi, and rarely, Borrelia mayonii, according to the CDC.
Many risk factors can be associated with getting Lyme disease, but there are also many solutions to avoid getting infected. Always be sure to stay protected when outdoors to avoid tick bites.
Common risk factors that can increase your chance of getting Lyme disease include:
- Camping outdoors
- Spending lots of time in nature
- Having exposed skin when in nature
- Not removing ticks properly or immediately
- Not inspecting or cleaning pets in the home
Spending time outside with exposed skin can increase the chances of getting Lyme disease. Make sure to use insect repellent if you are hiking, camping, or spending extended periods outdoors.
You can try to tick proof of your yard as well. Do this by clearing excess leaves where ticks often live. Cover up exposed areas, especially ankles, when you are in the woods. Make sure to always check pets and your children when they come inside, especially after being in heavily wooded areas.
It is possible to get Lyme disease more than once, so do not assume you are immune to it after exposure. Ticks should always be removed with tweezers immediately and cleaned with an antiseptic. Gently grip the tick by the head or mouth and pull carefully to not crush it. After removal, flush the tick in the toilet.
Ways to Boost Your Immunity during Lyme Disease
Since Lyme disease is a bacterial infection, antibiotics are necessary for treatment. While antibiotics kill the bacterial infection, they can also kill off beneficial bacteria that are necessary for a healthy immune system. It cannot hurt to boost your immune system to stay as healthy as possible.
Avoid killing good bacteria in the gut microbiome, and replenish that bacteria to stay well and prevent other diseases and infections.
Check out the list below to see where you can start adding more foods and even supplements high in nutrients, and supplements.
The following are present in foods and supplements or both:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
Other lifestyle changes that can help include an anti-inflammatory diet. Try to remove the most common food allergens and sensitivities as much as possible.
Getting enough sleep is also critical to keep your immunity high and help to fight off Lyme disease.
These foods and supplements can be beneficial to many, even though without Lyme disease. Speak to a healthcare professional today to see if you may benefit from adding any of these to your routine.
Fighting Lyme disease entails at least one, but often many rounds, of antibiotics. Signs and symptoms can vary from moderate to severe, depending on how severe the infection is.
The longer one waits without getting checked, that is when the more severe symptoms can occur. Many can benefit from dietary and supplemental remedies during Lyme disease treatment because heavy dose antibiotics can decrease immunity overall.
Be sure to reach out to a doctor or healthcare professional if you have any of these ongoing signs and symptoms, and especially if you experience several.