Symptoms and Signs of Lyme Disease

Medical Author: John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Lyme Disease

Lyme disease (also called Lyme infection or borreliosis) is a bacterial illness transmitted to humans from the bite of deer ticks (Ixodes ticks) carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. Lyme disease is most commonly found in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, North Central, and Pacific coastal regions of the U.S. and in Europe.

Early symptoms of Lyme disease develop within three to 30 days after a tick bite and include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, swollen lymph nodes, and feeling unwell (malaise). A rash that is warm to the touch but is not painful or itchy may also occur. In some people, the rash can appear as a target with multiple rings called a “bull's-eye” lesion. Symptoms in children are similar, though younger children are more likely to have skin lesions on the head or neck and older children on the extremities. Days to months later, additional serious symptoms of Lyme disease may occur and can include facial palsy (Bell's palsy), meningitis, nerve inflammation, shooting pains that may interfere with sleep and cause insomnia, muscle weakness, brain swelling (encephalitis), intermittent episodes of arthritis, pain in the tendons/muscles/bones, shortness of breath, heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat, dizziness or passing out, inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, and short-term memory problems.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.