Between the 2004 and 2009 reported cases of Lyme disease rose 94%. They 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 will not take long before everyone either knows someone who has it, or they have it themselves.
For several months, just like Avril Levigne, I truly thought I was dying.
Because the doctors and specialists I went to couldn’t figure out what was causing my symptoms, I went untreated for 18 months.
When Lyme bacteria, or Borrelia Burgdorferi, goes this long without proper treatment the damage often causes destruction to every organ and system in the body. This includes the heart, brain, neurological and immune systems.
Lyme is often called “the great imitator” because the symptoms are like so many other conditions. These include Multiple Sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome, and others.
I asked the doctors if my illness could be due to the tick bites I got at my home after being in the tall grasslands and forest area behind our house. I became extremely sick shortly after discovering the ticks and thought this was something that should be investigated. It wasn’t until much later that I was finally diagnosed.
“You Can’t Get Lyme Disease In Missouri.”
I obviously was naive to believe that doctors are always (or usually) right. I’ve learned much about the importance of advocating for myself and my health. I continue to learn more every day.
Eventually the proper tests were given that proved that they were tragically wrong and I did in fact have Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses, including tularemia.
That said, I have met many caring, well-trained physicians who are indignant when they hear that I was given the run around for so long without testing or treatment, especially when the doctors knew I was bitten by ticks. They simply told me that I had “tick fever” (whatever that means).
If this happened to me it could happen to you or to your loved ones. And I would never wish this horrible disease on anyone! That’s why it’s so important for me to share with you to help prevent other people from going through what I, and thousands of others, have been through.
Up until that point I was an extremely healthy person. (Please feel free to read more about my life with Lyme.) But now life is very different for me. I’m finding a new normal and constantly working to learn more and become as healthy as I can.
There is always hope!
I’m going to share with you the signs, symptoms, and stages of Lyme disease to help you know what to watch for. I truly hope this will enable you to protect yourself and your loved ones.
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 rashes since the tick bites.
- 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
- Headaches or migraines
- Painful, swollen joints, such as the knees
- Heart palpitations or Lyme carditis
- Conjunctivitis, or pink eye
- Meningitis – swelling of the brain
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.
- 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
- Difficulty thinking or reasoning
- Difficulty speaking
- Getting lost, even in familiar areas
- Anxiety, panic attacks
- Sensitivity to sound, light and smells
- Headaches and migraines
- Mood swings, depression
- Sleep disorders
- Migrating joint and muscle pain
- 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
This list of signs, symptoms and stages of Lyme disease is not exhaustive. I’ve talked to a lot of people with Lyme. Many of our symptoms are similar, but others are different.
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.
Or, if you know you’ve been bit by a tick, mosquito, etc and aren’t feeling well, please get yourself checked out.
Here is a list of doctors who specialize in treating Lyme patients. I would highly recommend starting here.