Lyme disease symptoms are not commonly known, but it is a potentially serious and painful disease. It is often left untreated or misdiagnosed as individuals do not recognize the symptoms. Lyme disease is prevalent in areas of the U.K. and in north eastern, north western and central parts of Canada and the U.S.
This disease is caused by tick bites that harbor the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, that hikers, campers and hunters in wooded or grassy areas are susceptible to. Symptoms may be sudden and acute or chronic and reappear at a later time.
Flu-Like Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The most common symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic bulls-eye shaped rash that affects approximately 80 percent of patients. There may also be initial flu-like symptoms such as a fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, body rash, muscle pain, jaw pain, light sensitivity and watery aching eyes.
It is easy to misdiagnose these symptoms as the flu because patients do not commonly recall a tick bite. Ticks are very small insects and the bites may go unnoticed. Individuals that live in an area that is prone to Lyme disease or tick bites should see a physician for flu-like symptoms when it is not flu season and if symptoms are chronic or severe.
Joint, Muscle and Nerve Pain
Other early symptoms of Lyme disease include arthritis like joint, bone, muscle and nerve pain. If left untreated, Lyme disease can cause serious neurological and cardiac complications at later stages. The most common nervous symptom is Bell’s palsy a slight paralysis of a facial nerve causing drooping or twitching of part of the face.
The Lyme disease bacteria infection can also spread to the nerve roots next to the spine, causing severe sciatica like radiating pain in one or both legs and elsewhere in the body.
Lyme Disease Can Affect the Heart
In severe infections in which the disease has progressed quickly or over time, the heart can be affected. In about ten percent of cases, Lyme disease can cause inflammation of the heart itself or in the pericardium (the lining or sac surrounding the heart). In rare cases, this inflammation can cause heart muscle weakness and arrhythmias of the heart beat.
Blood and spinal fluid tests can accurately diagnose Lyme disease and treatment with a strong or mild antiobiotics, depending on the severity of the disease, can destroy the bacterial infection in the body. Taking antibiotics before an infection cannot prevent Lyme disease; antibiotics should only be taken as a directed by a physican.