What is Lyme Disease? Why Does It Happen? Symptoms

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by four types of bacteria from the Borrelia genus, mainly Borrelia burgdorferi . Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected tick. The tick, on the other hand, catches the microbe from an infected deer or mouse. A small percentage of tick bites cause Lyme. In order for the tick to transmit the disease, it must remain on the skin for an average of 24-48 hours. Most people with Lyme disease do not remember or realize the tick bite.

Lyme disease was first described in 1975 in the town of Old Lyme, USA. It is the most common tick-borne disease in parts of the USA and Europe. Those who live or spend a long time in forested areas are at risk. Also, those who leave their pets in wooded areas can contract Lyme disease.

USA B. burgdorferi and B. Mayonna is , in Europe and Asia, B. afzelii and B. burgdorferi is the causative bacteria. The carrier tick is known as the black-legged tick or the deer tick.


Lyme disease has three stages: early localized, early diffuse, and late diffuse. The signs and symptoms vary depending on the stage. In a tick bite, a small red bump appears on the skin, similar to a mosquito bite, and disappears in a few days. This reaction caused by an insect bite is not a sign of Lyme disease. The symptoms are seen as follows according to the stages:

First stage, early localized disease:Lyme disease symptoms begin a week or two after the tick bite. One of the earliest manifestations is a “targetboard”-like skin rash. It indicates that the bacteria is multiplying in the blood. In the bull’s eye rash, there is an open area around the central red spot that the tick bitten, and a red area on its edge. It may feel warm to the touch but does not cause pain or itching. It can grow slowly over days, expanding up to 30 centimeters in diameter. Some people may have this rash in more than one place on their body. After 4 weeks, the rash disappears. This rash is also called erythema migrans. Although it is a type of rash specific to Lyme disease, it is not seen in every patient. Some people only have a red rash. Dark-skinned people may experience a rash that looks like bruising.

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80% of Lyme disease has a target board-like rash. Image source:  wikipedia.org

Second stage, early diffuse Lyme disease: This stage begins a few weeks after the tick bite. Bacteria spread throughout the body. Flu-like symptoms may occur. Chills, fever, enlarged lymph nodes, sore throat, changes in vision (eye inflammation), fatigue, muscle aches, headaches may occur. The person does not feel well. Rashes may occur in areas different from the tick bite. Neurological symptoms such as numbness, tingling, facial paralysis may occur. Complications such as meningitis and signal transmission disorders in the heart may develop. Symptoms of stage 1 and 2 can occur simultaneously.

Third stage: Late diffuse Lyme disease: If the infection is not treated in stages 1 and 2, it is passed to the late diffuse stage. It may appear weeks, months or years after the tick bite. In this stage, severe headache, arthritis in one or more large joints , arrhythmia in the heart, brain disease affecting memory, mood and sleep (encephalopathy), impaired concentration, short-term memory loss, numbness in the hands, arms, feet or legs may have symptoms.


Lyme diagnosis can be made based on the medical history and physical examination findings. Blood tests may be helpful for a few weeks after the initial infection, during which antibody levels are high. ELISA and western blot tests are used to show antibodies against bacteria. Analysis of joint fluid or cerebrospinal fluid samples with PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technique may help in the diagnosis in stage III disease with joint and nervous system findings.


The chance of success increases if treatment is started early. In the early stages, giving oral antibiotics for 14 or 21 days eliminates all signs of infection. Antibiotics with doxycycline active ingredient are preferred in adults and children older than 8 years. In younger children and nursing mothers, antibiotics containing cefuroxime and amoxicillin may be prescribed by the doctor.

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Persistent or chronic Lyme disease is treated with intravenous (intravenous) antibiotics for 14 to 21 days. Although this treatment eliminates the infection, symptoms may take longer to resolve.

It is not known exactly why complaints such as joint pain continue despite the disappearance of the bacteria. This can be caused by the immune system being accidentally triggered against the body’s own tissues (autoimmunity).


People at high risk of contracting the disease should take preventive measures. Clothing with long sleeves and long legs should be worn in forested and wooded areas. To reduce the attraction of the gardens to ticks, the lawn should be mowed, fallen leaves and undergrowth should be cleaned, and wood piles should be placed in areas with plenty of sun. Some insect repellents can keep ticks away for several hours. The instructions for use of these products should be observed. After being in wooded areas, check yourself, your children and pets for ticks. Lyme disease can be passed more than once, so having had it before does not provide protection. Consult a doctor if a tick bites. The earlier it is removed and the technique is appropriate, the lower the risk of contracting the disease. Gently remove the tick with tweezers from the head or near the mouth.

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