Health Care Public Health

What is Lyme Disease?

Man building a campfire in a forest while a woman collects timber in the background.

Choose the health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.

Spending time outdoors is great for your physical, mental and emotional health. But as with anything good, heading outside also comes with risks — including ticks and the diseases they transmit to humans. That includes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is spread by deer ticks, or black-legged ticks, that contain a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. These bacteria are transmitted when infected ticks bite humans.

Curious how to recognize and prevent Lyme disease? We’ve got you covered. Learn about this tick-born illness and how to test for, treat and avoid it.

Lyme Disease Symptoms

Many people don’t remember or even know if they’ve been bitten by a tick. But there are some telltale signs of Lyme disease you can look out for. One is a very specific rash called Erythema Migrans, which resembles a bullseye. The bullseye rash is usually one of the first Lyme disease symptoms to appear, between 3 and 30 days after the initial tick bite.

Other early, or localized, Lyme disease symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Stiff neck
  • Swollen lymph notes

After a few weeks or months, if left untreated, Lyme disease can spread and cause other more serious symptoms, including brain fog, facial paralysis and numbness.

Lyme Disease Diagnosis

Physicians often diagnose Lyme disease based on a physical exam and description of your symptoms. Then, they’ll confirm it with a blood test. For Lyme disease, you’ll need two positive blood tests to confirm your diagnosis.

Is Lyme Disease Contagious (Including From Your Dog)?

Lyme disease is not contagious from person to person. However, the ticks that carry Lyme disease can continue to infect people in your home if not found. That includes ticks that linger in your clothing or that your furry friends may be carrying after a walk outdoors.

Protect your pups and your family by regularly treating household dogs with flea and tick prevention. After hikes, it also helps to run your clothes through the dryer for at least 15 minutes to kill any ticks that may have hitched a ride into your home.

Lyme Disease Treatments

Lyme disease can be treated with a course of antibiotics and cured within two to four weeks. Your physician will prescribe either oral antibiotics or intravenous (IV) antibiotics. Generally, the sooner you receive treatment, the quicker you’ll recover.

Most people are cured of Lyme disease within a few weeks. However, some patients may continue to experience symptoms like fatigue, joint pain and difficulty thinking for six months or more after the initial infection. This condition is called post-Lyme disease syndrome (PLDS).

Left untreated, Lyme disease can contribute to other health problems, though people rarely die from it.

Fortunately, Lyme disease is preventable with a few precautions. It’s important to:

  • Check yourself for ticks after outdoor activities. Wearing light-colored clothing makes ticks easier to spot
  • Put on bug spray if you go to an area with lots of ticks
  • Wear long sleeves and pants — and tuck your pants into your socks to prevent ticks from burrowing inside your pant legs
  • Walk in the middle of pathways and away from tall grasses where ticks like to linger

If you find a tick on your body, use tweezers to remove it (staying as close to the head as possible) and place it in rubbing alcohol to kill it. Don’t squeeze its body with the tweezers. Wash the affected area with soap and water.

Protect Yourself From Infections With Our Help

Infectious disease can come in many forms, but no matter your illness, we’re ready to help you at AdventHealth. From Lyme disease to colds and seasonal flu, we’re here to help prevent and treat infectious diseases with the latest diagnostic testing and most advanced treatments.

Our team of specialists is ready to get you back to health. Learn more. You deserve to feel whole.

Recent Blogs

An older woman talking on the phone outdoors.
Living Life to the Fullest With Lupus
A woman points to arm to show a doctor.
Off the Radar: Unexpected Skin Cancer Spots to Check
Easy Ways to Get Your Kids to Eat Veggies
A Woman With a Concerned Look on Her Face Stares at Street From Her Balcony.
Signs of Hormonal Imbalance in Women
When is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?
View More Articles