Healthy Living

The Three Stages of Lyme Disease

The Three Stages of Lyme Disease

Key Takeaways

  • The bacteria that causes Lyme disease is hard to kill as it hides from the immune system.
  • There are three phases of the disease.
  • The late persistent phase is the most dangerous out of all the three.

The problem with Lyme disease is that it is difficult to treat because the organism responsible for the disease hides from your immune system. Lyme disease goes through three stages, and in each stage, they produce different signs and symptoms. The three stages of Lyme disease are:

  1. Early localized Lyme disease
  2. Early disseminated Lyme disease
  3. Late persistent Lyme disease

Each and every stage will be described in detail below.

Early Localized Lyme Disease

This is the first stage of the disease. It occurs a few days to weeks after the initial bite of the tick. The signs and symptoms of this stage include:

  • The characteristic bull’s eye rash known as Erythema migrans. It has an appearance similar to a target with a red circle in the middle surrounded by a bigger red circle with a gap in between them.
  • Fatigability
  • Fever with chills
  • Headache
  • Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness

In some patients, they do not show any symptoms at all during this stage. This stage will last for about one to four weeks after the initial infection. If the disease is diagnosed at this stage, it could be completely cured.

Early Disseminated Lyme Disease

If Lyme disease was not treated during the first stage, then it will continue to progress on to the second stage called the early disseminated Lyme disease. This stage occurs one to four months after the initial infection. During this stage, the bacteria will affect your skin, joints, heart, and nervous system. The symptoms of this stage include:

  • Erythema migrans in areas other than the site of the bite, which is an indication that the infection has begun to spread.
  • Generalized body weakness.
  • Pain or numbness of your hands and legs.
  • Headache

In this stage, your nervous system and heart can also get affected. If your nervous system is affected, you will develop meningitis (infection of the membranes lining the brain) and Bell’s palsy (inflammation of the facial nerve in your face). If your heart gets affected, it causes an inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis) and the sac surrounding the heart (pericarditis). Arrhythmias could also occur and will present with lightheadedness, palpitations, and fainting episodes.

Late Persistent Lyme Disease

This is the third stage of the disease, which results if you have not been treated during the early disseminated phase of Lyme disease. In this stage, serious damage to the joints, heart, nervous system, and brain could occur several months or years after the initial infection. This stage is very serious and sometimes life-threatening. The symptoms of this stage include:

  • Lyme arthritis, which mostly affects your knee joints. It causes pain, swelling, redness, and stiffness of the joints.
  • Numbness of your hands and feet
  • Fatigability
  • Affected memory and the ability to concentrate
  • Severe headache

The late persistent Lyme disease is the scariest stage out of all the three. Once you reach this stage, the disease is very difficult to treat. Some patients continue to show symptoms even after completing their course of antibiotics. Therefore, it is wise that you seek for early medical care if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above to avoid serious damage and life-threatening complications.