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Lyme Disease Symptoms


By Karen Lee Richards*

Lyme disease is often referred to as “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms can mimic so many other diseases. It is a multi-systemic disease which can affect any organ or system in the body, including the brain, heart, liver, kidneys, central nervous system, digestive system, musculoskeletal system, respiratory and circulatory systems – just to name a few.

Since fewer than 50% of people with Lyme disease ever develop the classic “bull’s-eye” rash, other more general symptoms may be the only evidence of infection. Following are the signs and symptoms for the three stages of Lyme disease.

Early Stage Lyme Disease Symptoms

These symptoms usually develop approximately three to 30 days after a tick bite.

  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, sweats, swollen lymph nodes, muscle soreness/aching, headaches, nausea and unexplained fatigue.
  • A “bull’s-eye” rash (Erythema migrans). Note: Fewer than 50% of people with Lyme disease ever develop the rash.

Early Disseminated Stage Lyme Disease Symptoms

Untreated, the infection may spread from the site of the bite to other parts of the body, producing an array of symptoms that may come and go. These symptoms often appear from one to four months after a tick bite.

  • Additional rashes on other areas of the body
  • Facial or Bell’s palsy (loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face)
  • Severe headaches and neck stiffness due to meningitis (inflammation of the spinal cord)
  • Pain and swelling in the large joints (such as knees)
  • Shooting pains that may interfere with sleep
  • Heart palpitations and dizziness due to changes in heartbeat

Late (Chronic) Stage Lyme Disease Signs and Symptoms Checklist

If Lyme disease is not properly diagnosed and treated early, it can worsen and become chronic. Any number of the following symptoms can appear and persist for months, years or indefinitely. Even among those Lyme disease patients who have been properly diagnosed and treated, many will have lingering chronic symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control calls this “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS), which it contends is caused by an autoimmune response in the body. In PTLDS the immune system continues to respond as if it had Lyme, causing cytokine responses that damage the body’s tissues, even after the infections have been cleared. However, overwhelming evidence-doctors’ experiences with their patients, as well as lab studies-show that when symptoms continue, it is usually because the infections are still present in the body. Most Lyme-literate doctors and researchers therefore believe PTLDS to be an unsubstantiated condition created by the CDC to foster its own agenda and deny treatment to patients.

Lyme Disease Symptoms Tick Bite

Head, Face, Neck

  • Unexplained hair loss
  • Headache, mild or severe
  • Twitching of facial or other muscles
  • Facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy)
  • Tingling of nose, cheek, or face
  • Stiff or painful neck
  • Jaw pain or stiffness
  • Sore throat, swollen glands
  • Altered smell and/or taste

Lyme Disease Symptoms Headache


  • Double or blurry vision
  • Increased floaters (spots in the line of vision)
  • Pain in eyes, or swelling around eyes
  • Oversensitivity to light
  • Flashing lights, or phantom images in corner of eyesEars/Hearing

Lyme Disease Symptoms Ear Pain


  • Decreased hearing in one or both ears
  • Ringing or buzzing in ears
  • Pain in ears
  • Oversensitivity to sound

Lyme Disease Symptoms Digestive and Excretory Systems

Digestive and Excretory Systems

  • Diarrhea and/or Constipation
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Irritable bladder (trouble starting, stopping)
  • Upset stomach (nausea or pain)

Lyme Disease Symptoms Musculoskeletal System

Musculoskeletal System

  • Any joint pain or swelling
  • Stiffness of joints, back, neck
  • Muscle pain or cramps
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Muscle weakness

Lyme Disease Symptoms Neurological System

Respiratory and Circulatory Systems

  • Shortness of breath, cough
  • Chest pain or rib soreness
  • Night sweats or unexplained chills
  • Heart palpitations or extra beats
  • Heart blockage
  • Exercise Intolerance

Lyme Disease Symptoms Neurological System

Neurological System

  • Tremors or unexplained shaking
  • Burning or stabbing sensations in the body
  • Weakness or partial paralysis
  • Pressure in the head
  • Numbness in body, tingling, pinpricks
  • Poor balance, dizziness, difficulty walking
  • Increased motion sickness
  • Lightheadedness, wooziness
  • Seizures

Lyme Disease Symptoms Psychological Well-being

Psychological Well-being

  • Mood swings, irritability
  • Unusual depression
  • Panic attacks, anxiety
  • Feeling as if you are losing your mind
  • Overemotional reactions, crying easily
  • Disturbed sleep (too much or too little)
  • Personality changes

Lyme Disease Symptoms Cognitive Functioning

Cognitive Functioning

  • Memory loss (short or long term)
  • Confusion, difficulty in thinking
  • Difficulty with concentration or reading
  • Disorientation (getting or feeling lost)
  • Speech difficulty (slurred, slow or stammering)
  • Attention deficit problems (easily distracted)
  • Forgetting how to perform simple tasks

Lyme Disease Symptoms Reproduction and Sexuality

Reproduction and Sexuality

  • Loss of sex drive
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Unexplained menstrual pain, irregularity
  • Unexplained breast pain, discharge
  • Testicular or pelvic pain

Lyme Disease Symptoms Skin Problems

Skin Problems

  • Benign tumor-like nodules
  • Erethyma Migrans (bull’s-eye or other rashes)

Lyme Disease Symptoms Extreme Fatigue

General Well Being

  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Unexplained fevers (high- or low-grade)
  • Continual infections (sinus, kidney, eye, etc.)
  • Symptoms seem to change, come & go
  • Pain migrates (moves) to different body parts
  • Low body temperature
  • Allergies, chemical sensitivities
  • Early on, experienced a flu-like illness, after which you have not since felt well

* Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE, the very first full-color, glossy magazine devoted to FM and other invisible illnesses.  After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website About.com, and then for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network.


Additional Resources:

Dr. Burrascano’s 2005 Symptom List Chart

References »

Last Updated: 4/24/15

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