The Signs, Symptoms And Stages Of Lyme Disease

signs symptoms and stages of Lyme disease

Lyme disease continues to be a hot topic in the news, likely because it is increasing at an alarming rate due to climate changes and other factors.

Between 2004 and 2009 reported cases of Lyme disease rose 94%.

And the number of cases continue to rise today.

Fortunately, people are starting to take notice of this disturbing trend.

But, if Lyme disease continues to spread, often unrecognized and untreated, it won’t take long before everyone either knows someone who has it, or they have it themself.

Lyme is now much more common than AIDS, West Nile Virus, and other vector-borne illnesses.

Knowing what to look out for is crucial.

I’ve been living with late-stage chronic Lyme for the past 5 years. I don’t want anyone to have to go through this horrible illness and believe prevention is essential.

I’m going to share the signs, symptoms, and stages of Lyme disease below so you know what to watch for. I truly hope this will help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

signs, symptoms and stages of Lyme diseaseSigns Symptoms And Stages Of Lyme Disease

1. Early Localized Lyme Disease (1 to 4 weeks)

This stage can develop from days to weeks after becoming infected.

Symptoms may include:

  • Rashes – Less that 50% of Lyme patients remember developing a rash. Sometimes the rash looks like a bulls-eye. This is referred to as erythema migrans (EM). It is a myth that you must  have this rash to have Lyme disease (1). I did not ever see a bull-eye rash, but have developed a number of unusual red and splotchy rashes since the tick bites (for more on rashes, keep reading below).
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever and chills, fatigue, headache, pain or stiffness in the neck and swollen lymph nodes (2).
  • Nausea, dizziness and vomiting

Stage 2: Early Disseminated Lyme Disease Infection (1 to 4 months)

This stage develops when the disease is not found and/or treated properly soon after infection. At this point the infection can begin to affect the joints, heart, nervous system and skin.

Symptoms may include:

  • More rashes that start to appear in different parts of the body due to the infection spreading
  • Paralysis of the facial muscles, or Bell’s Palsy
  • Fainting
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Painful, swollen joints, such as the knees
  • Heart palpitations or Lyme carditis
  • Conjunctivitis, or pink eye
  • Meningitis – swelling of the brain

Stage 3: Late Persistent Lyme Disease, Or Chronic Lyme

Failure to treat Lyme promptly can cause damage to the brain, joints and nervous system. This is the most serious stage.

Symptoms may include:

  • Extreme exhaustion which is not relieved by sleeping or resting
  • Inability to control facial muscles
  • Heart problems, such as pericarditis
  • Tingling and numbness of the hands and feet
  • Arthritis, often in the larger joints, such as the knees
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Confusionsigns symptoms and stages of Lyme disease
  • Difficulty thinking or reasoning
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Getting lost, even in familiar areas
  • Anxiety, panic attacks
  • Seizures
  • Tremor
  • Sensitivity to sound, light and smells
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Mood swings, depression
  • Sleep disorders
  • Migrating joint and muscle pain
  • Vertigo
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Vision difficulties
  • Weight gain or loss
  • “Air hunger”
  • Pain in the chest or ribs
  • “Heart block”
  • Neck pain, stiffness and cracking
  • Night sweats
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Heart murmur or valve prolapse
  • Light-headedness, dizziness
  • Menstrual irregularity

The Takeaway

This list of signs, symptoms and stages of Lyme disease is not exhaustive. I’ve talked to a lot of people with Lyme and many of our symptoms are similar, but others are different.

My friend, if you are struggling with an illness and the doctors have been unable to help you, you may want to consider this list to help you rule out (or in) Lyme disease, especially if you spend a lot of time outdoors or live in a tick-infested area.

And of course, if you know you’ve been bit by a tick, mosquito, etc and aren’t feeling well, please get yourself checked out immediately.

Here is a list of doctors who specialize in treating Lyme patients. I would highly recommend starting here.


Do you have any of these symptoms? Or do you have an unexplained illness and can’t seem to get answers?

Please share your comments below in the comment section. I love hearing from you!


For more on Lyme disease, you may want to check out:

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Finally, the information provided in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to treat, prevent, diagnose or cure any disease or health problem.


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68 Comments

  1. Wow. I’ve been hearing about this so much more lately but I had no idea how bad it was. I can’t believe it just destroys your body like this.

    1. Thanks so much, Terri – I’m happy you found it helpful! Great question!

      Lyme disease is a clinical diagnosis.

      Blood tests for Lyme are notoriously inaccurate, especially in the early stages of the disease because the antibodies don’t have time to develop yet. Many people test negative early on but can actually have Lyme.

      If a person develops a bulls-eye rash (erythema migrans) this is considered diagnostic for Lyme. However, less than 50% of Lyme patients ever recall having a rash. (http://www.ilads.org/lyme/about-lyme.php)

      I have had all sorts of unusual rashes since getting Lyme, but never noticed a bulls-eye rash.

      In my experience it is much more difficult to get proper testing and diagnosis in areas where Lyme isn’t considered prevalent. It’s like an uphill battle in many places if you don’t live in the Northeast. And even if you do, I’ve heard from plenty of people who are still struggling for prompt and appropriate medical care.

      Years ago, Lyme may have been only concentrated in certain states, but ticks know no borders and that has quickly changed. It’s found in every state now.

      Here’s a more in-depth explanation of Lyme diagnosis: https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-basics/lyme-disease/diagnosis/

      I hope this helps!

    1. Fibro is a common misdiagnosis for Lyme. The doctor diagnosed me with it too. It’s such a tricky illness because it looks like so many other diseases and conditions.

      I hope your friend is doing better now, Kelly!

  2. I have been chasing a lyme’s diagnosis for a few years now. I am currently in the middle of a flair up and it’s hard.

    1. Oh, Reesa, I’m so sorry! Do you have a doctor who specializes in treating Lyme patients?

      Please feel free to email me or message me through my facebook page. I’m here if you need someone to talk to.

      Gentle hugs and prayers for healing. XO

  3. I appreciate this post so much because I barely know anything about lyme disease and how it affects our health. It’s better to know what’s out there instead of guessing what’s happening to your body.

  4. I have had a couple friends in the last couple years dealing with Lyme disease. I remember hearing about it 20 years ago on 20/20 and it is so surprising to have people with it in my circles. We don’t live anywhere near where they said people could get it.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your friends, Rachel. This is horrible and makes me sad.

      It also makes me angry that people are continually being told, “You can’t get Lyme disease in (fill in the blank)” because it is simply not true. It happened to me and others who live in our small town in Southwest Missouri and it’s happening throughout the U.S.

      In the early stages of my disease (when the time was ripe for treatment) 2 different doctors told me that I had the symptoms of Lyme but because I’d never traveled to the Northeast I couldn’t have it. There is so much misinformation about Lyme within the medical community. It’s been eyeopening.

      Lyme cases have been confirmed in all 50 states. Even the CDC admits it: http://www.bayarealyme.org/blog/cdc-talk/

      That said, I’m thankful to have found an excellent primary care doctor in our town who is up-to-date and well-educated on Lyme, along with my Lyme literate M.D.’s I don’t know where I’d be without them!

      I’ll get down off my soapbox for now. 😉

      I pray your friends get the treatment and medical care they need and they’re able to heal.

  5. When I was just out of my parent’s house, I went to the doctor and was given a diagnosis of Lyme disease. I barely knew what that was. I just felt exhausted all the time and like my body was swollen and really heavy. The doctor told me it seemed to be early and gave me some medicine. I’ve been fine ever since then. But I’ve heard of people having horrible lasting symptoms from Lyme disease. So I think I’m probably really lucky.

    1. Oh my gosh, Erica…I agree. It sounds like you’ve been very fortunate to dodge the Lyme bullet. I’m sorry you had it and were sick initially, but thankful they caught it early and you felt better after taking the medicine! That’s awesome!

      You’re right that many people have horrible symptoms that continue, even after treatment. In my case it took the doctors and specialists nearly 2 years to finally figure out what was causing my body to shut down. Unfortunately, by then a round of antibiotics isn’t going to do much. It takes more of a long-term whole-body approach to healing.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience with Lyme. I’m happy you’re doing well! 🙂

  6. Great information! Lyme’s disease is so scary. I know so many people that didn’t see any symptoms. Thanks for the really good list, I need to be more observant.

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann! You’re right…Lyme is scary. I didn’t even know what it was until I learned I had it. I hope this list helps people identify the signs and symptoms to watch for. And most of all, if you think there’s any chance you could have it, don’t delay…get checked out right away.

  7. This is good to know! A lot of people don’t know a lot about this disease and it’s good to keep informed and more aware of our surroundings and then our bodies.

  8. Great article! This is so important, we live in an area that really has a lot of ticks and it’s so important to know the signs.

    1. Thanks! We have a lot of ticks here too. Growing up I found ticks on me because I love being outside. But I didn’t know how much damage they could do until I got Lyme so now I’m much more vigilant myself and with my family. It’s great that you know that importance of recognizing the signs!

  9. Lyme Disease is terrible and can affect so many organs and systems if it progresses thank you for these lists. We had a little scare with my son last year and his tests were equivocal so we treated him. He is ok now he only had a vague rash.

    1. Wow, that must have been scary, Melissa. It sounds like he was treated promptly, which is so important (but doesn’t always happen). I’m thankful he was okay! Thanks for sharing this.

  10. This is really helpful because honestly, I probably wouldn’t of known most of these. We have lots of ticks where we live, so this is good to know.

    1. Hello Ivy!

      Yes, the Lyme bacteria (Borrelia) can remain in your body and cause symptoms even after taking antibiotics.

      This can depend somewhat on the timing the treatment is received. There is a much higher incidence of ongoing symptoms when one doesn’t receive prompt treatment. Many people who are treated promptly never have symptoms again. The ongoing symptoms tend to happen more when the illness isn’t treated soon enough after the infection.

      There are different strains of Lyme bacteria, such as B mayonii, B afzelii and B garinii bacteria. B burgdorferi and B mayonii.

      The bacteria are corkscrew-shaped and called spirochetes, but they can change forms to protect themselves from threats, like antibiotics. The different forms include: spirochetes, cysts, and cell-wall deficient (also known as L-form).

      Lyme bacteria can also form biofilms, which are like a protective bubble.

      I hope this helps answer your questions. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope to hear from you again soon!

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