There are 3 different stages to Lyme disease. The three stages are: early localized, early disseminated, and late persistent infection.
The first stage to Lyme disease is known as an early localized disease. This is when people will spot a bulls eye rash. Once again, as I have said in a previous blog entry, according to ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Disease Society, they believe that 50% of people get the classic bulls eye rash. So, consider yourself one of the lucky ones if you have the classic bulls eye rash. Not lucky, that you have Lyme of course, but that you caught it right away. Just don’t take an idiot doctors advice and take a shot of penicillin (gets rid of the rash only), or their quick fix of a month or less of doxycycline. If you ever have a doctor tell you this will 100% fix you, RUN. Much better to see a Doctor that is Lyme-literate and will treat for a couple extra months, and since you were just infected, you hopefully will be able to maintain a long term remission and be symptom free.
The early localized infection stage lasts 1 to 4 weeks. Some of the symptoms of of this first stage include the bulls eye rash and flu-like symptoms such as: lack of energy, headache, stiff neck, fever, chills, muscle and joint pain. So… if you don’t get the obvious rash, and don’t necessarily see a tick ever attached to you, you would probably just assume you have a bug of sorts. A lot of people don’t even have any symptoms at all when they are first infected.
The second stage is known as an early disseminated infection. This stage is from one to 4 months after the start of your initial Lyme infection. Now, this is when the little spirochetes are starting to spread and cause more havoc to your system. At this point, this disease can start to attack things in your body such as your skin, joints, nervous system, and heart.
The symptoms of this second stage include: tiredness/lack of energy, pain/weakness/numbness of your arms and legs, joint pain, not being able to use the muscles in your face (Bells Palsy), poor memory, inability to concentrate, damage to deep tissue in your eyes, fainting, headaches, and heart palpitations. I still wonder if my heart issues are from being undiagnosed for so long.
Then you finally reach the last stage, known as late persistent Lyme disease. This is what is after 4 months of infection and is the most serious of all the three stages. Sometimes, some of these people DID get help, but they just didn’t know any better and didn’t get a better treatment other than what their doctor gave them. Sometimes, some people have little or no symptoms at all, and then just crash. Even then, as you have probably read or have personally experienced, it can be very hard to get a correct diagnosis. This is more or less what happened to me. I have had some “off” things throughout my life, which was likely Lyme, but I think once I reached my 20’s my immune system just wasn’t fighting the bacteria anymore, it took years to get a correct diagnosis, and here I am now. Many people wait years and years before finally getting their correct diagnosis. And when they do, the disease is considered chronic.
At this point, your whole system is affected: joints, nerves, organs, brain, heart. They call the joint pain in this stage chronic Lyme arthritis. Other general symptoms include: Exaustion, numbness, lack of control of muscles in your face (Bell’s Palsy), numbness or tingling in hands, feet, legs, arms or back, heart problems, mood disorder, sleep issues, seizures, and heart problems.
For a longer list of the main symptoms of Lyme disease and what to look out for, check out http://www.lymeresearchalliance.org/signs-symptom-list.html. Of course, there are many not listed, but if you have several things going on with you on that list, go see a lyme-literate doctor, talk to him or her, and get tested 🙂
Sources: http://arthritis.webmd.com/tc/lyme-disease-symptoms, http://www.lymeresearchalliance.org/signs-symptom-list.html , http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001319.htm, https://www.blueshieldca.com/bsca/health-wellness/health-library/article.sp?articleId=HWTY3183, ILADS.com, http://www.lymenet.org/BurrGuide200810.pdf