The classic symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic rash, called erythema migrans, near the bite. An estimated 85% of people with Lyme disease get this rash.
- The rash starts as a small red spot at the site of the tick bite.
- Over the next few days or weeks, the rash expands into a circle or oval.
- Sometimes the rash resembles a bull's eye (a red ring surrounding a clear area with a red center).
- The rash can range from the size of a dime to more than a foot in diameter.
- As infection spreads, the rash can appear at different locations on the body.
Nice To Know:
Recognizing the Lyme Disease Rash
The characteristic rash of Lyme disease appears in more than 8 out of 10 cases. It begins as a red dot and then expands. Sometimes the redness fades in the center area, leaving a rash often described as looking like a "bull's-eye."
Anyone with an unusual rash should see a physician. It's best to photograph the rash if possible, in case it disappears by the time of the appointment.
With or without the rash, the infection is often accompanied by:
- A generalized feeling of illness (malaise)
- Stiff neck
- Overall aching
If Lyme disease is untreated, about 60% of people will experience symptoms of
- In Lyme disease, arthritis is most commonly felt in the knees.
- The arthritis can shift from one joint to another.
- Arthritis symptoms may persist or may occur intermittently.
- About 10% to 20% of people with untreated Lyme disease will go on to develop chronic arthritis.
Other symptoms also may appear, caused by inflammation in various areas of the body:
- Neurological (nervous system) symptoms are seen in about 15% of people with Lyme disease. They can include partial paralysis of the face (a condition called Bell's palsy), numbness or weakness of the limbs, and a change in mood or sleeping habits.
- Less than 10% of the time, the heart can be affected by disorders that include irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias) and inflammation of the sac around the heart.
- Less commonly, Lyme disease can result in eye infection, hepatitis (a disease that affects the liver), or encephalitis (inflammation in the brain).