From Tick Bite to Lyme Disease: Tracking the Progression

May 7th 2016

The best way to prevent Lyme disease is to avoid tick bites. Always check for ticks after spending time outdoors. If a bite occurs, the entire head of the parasite must be removed from the skin. Contact a physician if any Lyme disease symptoms occur after possible contact with a tick.

Early Localized Lyme Disease

In most cases, a tick must remain attached to its host for at least three to four days to transmit Lyme disease to a human. Early symptoms may appear within days or weeks of the initial bite, but some victims may not show any signs of the disease during the first stage. The most common reaction is a circular red rash that expands from the bite location. Infected individuals may also experience flu-like symptoms, including achy joints, fever, fatigue and headaches.

Early Disseminated Infection

If Lyme disease isn't diagnosed and treated during the first stage, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. Infected individuals who had no early symptoms may experience complications with their joints or nervous system during the second stage of the disease. Heart complications and additional skin rashes may also occur. Frequent headaches, episodes of fainting, inability to focus and lack of muscle control in the face are common symptoms. Intermittent pain and swelling in joint areas such as the knee, a rapid heart rate, or numbness in the arms and legs indicate a need to seek medical attention as well.

Late Disseminated Lyme Disease

Symptoms may come and go during the second stage of Lyme disease, but they should be treated with an antibiotic to prevent further complications. Patients who progress to stage three may suffer long-term damage to their joints, muscles or nervous system. Symptoms include arthritis, particularly in the knee, abnormal movement, muscle weakness and tingling sensations throughout the body. Speech problems or delayed cognitive abilities may also emerge. It could take months or years before any of these symptoms appear.


Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is commonly carried by various species of ticks. A susceptible tick contracts the disease when it feeds on infected mice or deer, transmitting the bacteria to its next human host. Lyme disease symptoms progress over the course of several months, beginning with a localized skin rash and eventually affecting joints, the nervous system and vital organs if adequate treatment isn't received.

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