Everything That Happens to Your Body When You Get Lyme Disease
Lyme disease is a pretty horrifying infection that starts with everyone's favorite little arachnid: the tick. Lyme disease symptoms can range from little rashes to massive neurological disorders, and can even turn deadly if left untreated. But it all begins with a small bite from an infected tick, and terrifyingly enough, it can happen to you pretty much anywhere. As gruesome as this may sound, you may still be wondering what it's like to have Lyme disease as its symptoms progress, and lucky for you, we have the answers.
When delving into what Lyme disease is like, it's worth noting that the list of symptoms is massive. It may seem like you have the flu, it may seem like you're just tired, or it may seem like you just have achy joints. The symptoms can sometimes be so mild that you don't even realize you have them. In other words, you can have Lyme disease, sometimes for quite a while, and never even know it.
So, if you're ready to find out what Lyme disease feels like, as morbid and fascinating as it might be, read on. Some of this article is graphic, so you've been warned.
It's All Starts with One Little Bite
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks, a particularly nasty little arachnid with an appetite for human blood. But how does one simply bite jumpstart all this sickness? Well, the ticks pass along a little bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, which makes its way into your blood stream when a tick bites you. Oftentimes, the bacteria is spread by younger, smaller ticks, which have a painless and mostly unnoticeable bite, so you won't even notice it's gotten you. Once it's in, the bacteria, which is creepily corkscrew-shaped, makes its way to your nervous system, vital organs, and all throughout your body. From there, you'll start to notice that something is a little wrong, though you won't quite know why.
What's more is that Lyme disease has been found on every continent except for Antarctica. Basically, there's no escaping it.
It Imitates a Bunch of Other DiseasesPhoto: no / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
Although it's in your body and there will be obvious symptoms, chances are you won't recognize what's affecting you as Lyme disease. Lyme disease has a huge number of symptoms that all seem to impact different parts of the body, unrelated to each other. Some of these symptoms smack of specific diseases, so you're probably going to think you're sick with something else. Do you have the flu? Is it a joint pain issue? Maybe you're just tired, who knows! The fact of the matter is that you're going to experience a bunch of weird stuff, none of which screams Lyme disease.
You're Going to Get Super Tired
One thing you might notice upon first getting Lyme disease is that you feel a little worn out. In fact, you might feel downright exhausted. Between your body trying to fight off the infection and the infection itself wreaking havoc, you're likely to feel pretty fatigued. Doctors may even misdiagnose you with chronic fatigue. Of course, being tired is hardly a huge warning sign, especially if you live an active lifestyle, so you'll probably brush it off as no big deal. Unfortunately, it only gets worse from here.
You Might Feel Like You Just Worked Out Too HardPhoto: thebradking / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0
After the fatigue, things are going to progress and get a bit more severe. Your joints may hurt, you may have heart palpitations, shortness of breath, and your muscles may ache. Even if you haven't been to the gym, you might feel like you've been through one heck of a workout, and the feeling will persist all day. Physical activity is also going to make it worse. This might be the point where you start feeling like something is wrong with you.
You Might Think You Have the Flu
Think of what you know about the flu. It's all about nausea, fever, chills, headache, and achy limbs, right? Well, that's pretty much what the early symptoms of Lyme disease are, too. The majority of people, when these symptoms hit, assume that they simply have the flu and take a day off from work to rest up. However, rest doesn't fix Lyme disease, and the symptoms are going to get worse and worse over time, even if you and your doctors don't recognize it. Luckily, there will finally be a symptom that tells you, in big bold letters, that you probably have Lyme disease.
There May Be a Massive, Bullseye-Shaped RashPhoto: fairfaxcounty / flickr / CC-BY-ND 2.0
If you're looking for a sign that you have Lyme disease, here it is, like a big red bullseye. No, seriously. It looks like a bullseye. Between three and 30 days after being bitten, the area around the initial tick bite is going to start showing a large rash, sometimes warm to the touch but not painful, with the bite in the center and a red ring around the outside. You may also notice rashes in other areas, particularly around the joints, but the big one is going to be right around where you've initially been bitten. At this point, when you go to a doctor, they'll probably be able to tell you what's going on just from looking at that.