What Causes a Bullseye Tick Bite?

Valerie Goldberg

A bullseye tick bite is caused by ticks carrying Lyme disease. Deer ticks are the main carriers of Lyme disease, but it is possible for a person to contract Lyme from another tick species. Once a person is bitten by a tick, the bullseye tick bite rash can be one of the earliest visual symptoms of Lyme disease.

Dogs should be groomed and examined for ticks on a regular basis.
Dogs should be groomed and examined for ticks on a regular basis.

Ticks can bite any part of a person's body, but bites are most common on the legs and other exposed areas of skin. The bullseye tick bite — the proper medical term is erythema migrans — will appear at the exact spot of infection. The bullseye rash may cause pain and itching in some patients, while other patients may have the red rash without any pain. Some people describe the bullseye rash as feeling warmer than the surrounding area of skin. It is also possible for fever and severe fatigue to accompany the rash.

Ticks that carry Lyme disease cause a bullseye bite.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease cause a bullseye bite.

Lyme disease can be treated easily using antibiotics, if caught early. Left untreated, Lyme disease can have serious complications, including joint inflammation, memory loss and facial paralysis. If a person believes he or she has been bitten by a tick, then he or she should seek medical attention as soon as possible. A doctor will perform tests and discuss a patient's symptoms to confirm Lyme disease.

Removing a tick from a person's body can prevent the spread of Lyme disease. Even if the tick has already latched on to a person's skin, it can be removed using tweezers. Ticks should never be squeezed or burned off.

People can avoid being bitten by ticks by staying away from woods and grassy areas. If going into the woods is a must, then it is vital for people to tuck their pant legs into their boots to avoid giving ticks easy access to ankles and legs. Baseball caps can help to keep ticks from getting attached to a person's scalp. Women also may want to consider putting their hair in a pony tail. Dogs and cats can carry ticks into a home and should be examined and groomed on a regular basis.

The bullseye tick rash and Lyme disease were given prime television attention in 2007 during an episode of the medical drama House. The patient in the episode was suffering from Lyme disease. The illness was almost misdiagnosed, however, because the medical team overlooked a bullseye tick bite on the patient's scalp.

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