Not every tick bite will result in Lyme disease, but it is a good idea to discuss Lyme disease with your doctor following a tick bite. Lyme disease, in most cases, can be eliminated with antibiotics, especially if treatment is started when symptoms are first noted.
Lyme disease is divided into 3 phases:
Symptoms start a few days to a month after a tick bite. The classic "bull's eye" lesion does not need to develop for a diagnosis of Lyme disease. If left untreated, the disease can spread to the lymph nodes.
Multiple skin lesions are seen, along with flu-like symptoms and head, neck, and joint pain. There may also be heart or nerve symptoms as well as arthritis, which can develop over a few months to up to 2 years after the initial infection.
The heart, joints, and nervous system can be affected. Symptom can develop over a few months to years after the initial infection and may be difficult to treat.
Erythema migrans, the classic unraised red "bull's-eye" lesion on the skin, will appear days to weeks after the bite. However, about 25% of people never get this lesion. Some may complain of flu-like symptoms, including fever; head, neck, and joint pain; and generalized muscle pain. The lesion will resolve without treatment in about a month.
Weeks to months later, the bacterium can affect the joints, heart, and nervous system.
The late phase of Lyme disease can also affect the joints, heart, and nervous system. In the heart, there can be an abnormal heart rhythm. The face can become paralyzed (facial muscle paralysis), and you can have confusion and abnormal sensations of the skin such as numbness, tingling, a prickling sensation, or pain. There can be inflammation in the joints, or arthritis, beginning with swelling, stiffness, and pain, commonly affecting the knees.
Ticks begin transmitting Lyme disease about 24–48 hours after attaching to the host. You can reduce your chances of getting Lyme disease by removing the tick within 48 hours.
To remove the tick, you will need tweezers and isopropyl alcohol.
- Sterilize the tweezers with alcohol, and make sure to wash your hands. You should not clean or disturb the skin near the tick.
- Grasp the part of the tick that is embedded in the skin with the tweezers, not the body where you may see tiny legs.
- The tick will likely be firmly embedded. Pull it outward in one motion. Do not twist or jerk the tweezers. Do not apply anything to the tick that you think may help it come out smoothly as this may result in a part of the tick being left in the skin.
- Clean the bite wound with alcohol. If you are not sure if the entire tick has been removed, see your doctor.