Initial symptoms may occur within a day or a week, and often people think they just have a flu or virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, general achiness, swollen glands, fatigue and a possible rash. But some patients may present with only neurological symptoms (headache, sleep disruption, memory or concentration problems). The rash is seen in fewer than half of diagnosed cases. It is typically a bulls eye rash, but it may also present in other forms like a round or oval reddish rash. If the bulls-eye rash is seen, it is a definitive diagnosis of Lyme disease and treatment should begin immediately. “Summer flus” are highly unusual – and healthcare practitioners are informed to consider Lyme and Tick-borne diseases when patients experience a “summer flu-like illness”.
If the initial infection goes undiagnosed and untreated the infection can progress, disseminating throughout the body, affecting any organ. In the heart, the bacteria may cause heart block or palpitations. Recent reports of sudden cardiac death due to Lyme carditis highlight the importance of prompt diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease. When the bacteria effects the digestive system, patients may experience nausea, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, poor digestion or diarrhea. Endocrine disturbances such as hypothyroidism or menstrual irregularities are common. In the brain, Lyme disease may cause learning disabilities, memory impairment, headaches, sleep disturbances, and concentration problems often presenting like attention deficit disorder (ADD). There may also be joint swelling and pain, muscle soreness, twitching and cramps. Some experience light and sound sensitivity. Most patients with Lyme also have fatigue, which can be quite debilitating.