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The serious medical condition known as Lyme disease is caused by the bite of an infected tick, but not all untreated tick bites lead to Lyme disease. Many times the symptoms of Lyme disease mimic other illnesses, including flu, fibromyalgia and general fatigue syndrome. Victims of infected tick bites do not always present with all of the tell-tale symptoms of Lyme disease as well, making a proper diagnosis very difficult without specific tests. General symptoms of Lyme disease, at least in its earliest stage, include general fatigue, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, headache and joint stiffness. These symptoms are often misinterpreted as the side effects of influenza.
Lyme disease actually has three different stages of development, which means the symptoms of Lyme disease in its earliest stage may not match symptoms in its middle or late stages. The first stage is considered "early localized," and begins with the tick bite itself. The initial bite often goes unnoticed, as the victim may believe it to be a typical bite from a mosquito or a minor sting. The first symptoms of Lyme disease in its early localized stage could include flu-like symptoms and a distinctive rash called an erythema migrans, often described as a bulls-eye rash because of its circular pattern around the bite area.
After approximately four weeks, untreated Lyme disease enters its second stage, known as the "early disseminated" stage. When Lyme disease becomes disseminated, the infection spreads to other parts of the body. Symptoms of Lyme disease during this stage become more chronic and noticeable, although a misdiagnosis is still possible without specific tests. The initial rash area could spread to other parts of the body. Muscular weakness and fatigue become more apparent, along with tingling sensations in extremities and an inability to control certain facial muscles. Stronger headaches occur more frequently, and some sufferers experience difficulty with memory and speech. Heart palpitations and conjunctivitis, or pink eye, have also been known to develop during the disseminated stage.
If Lyme disease remains untreated or undiagnosed after 4 months, it generally enters the "late persistent" stage. Symptoms of Lyme disease during this final stage can be physically and mentally debilitating. A condition known as Bell's Palsy can cause at least partial paralysis of the sufferer's facial nerves. Swelling and inflammation of major joints may trigger severe pain, and the patient's general sense of fatigue often escalates to severe levels. A condition known as chronic Lyme arthritis occasionally develops during the disease's late persistent stage. Neurological problems such as memory loss, mood changes and sleep disorders could also become chronic during the late persistent stage of Lyme disease.
Fortunately, there are medical professionals who have received specialized training in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. If a victim of an infected tick bite is properly diagnosed with Lyme disease, an aggressive treatment plan implemented by a knowledgeable physician should help him or her avoid or diminish the effects of the disseminated and late persistent stages of the disease. Anyone who suspects exposure to a tick should examine himself or herself for a distinctive circular rash, particular along the hairline or exposed areas of skin.