Lyme disease, which comes from the bites of blacklegged ticks infected with Borrelia bacteria, is a serious health problem in the United States. In most cases, an infected tick must be attached to its host for 36-48 hours in order for the bacteria to infect the host. Initial symptoms of Lyme disease include a rash around the site of the tick bite, fever, headache and fatigue. The rash may be of the classic “bull’s-eye” type, but it can also appear as a red patch, typically about 3 centimeters (about equal to the size of a quarter) or larger.
Left untreated, Lyme disease can lead to severe headache and stiff neck; severe joint pain and swelling, especially in large joints like the knees; partial facial paralysis (palsy); loss of muscle tone; and weakness or numbness in the extremities. A rash may also appear on other parts of the body.
Fortunately, most tick bites cause no problems, but if you’ve been bitten by a tick and start to show symptoms, see your doctor immediately—even if the symptoms seem to go away. Treatment for Lyme disease is most effective when started as soon as possible after the tick bite.