You didn’t wince in pain when it happened. In fact, you probably didn’t even feel it. The bull’s eye rash (the hallmark of Lyme disease) often shows up out of nowhere.
Most people who have been bit by a tick infected with Lyme disease never see or feel a tick on their skin. "It doesn't cause much pain and it's one of those things that can be hard to diagnose," Stephen Blatt MD, of TriHealth Infectious Diseases, explains.
Why is Lyme Disease More Prevalent?
Lyme disease is becoming more prevalent in more areas of the country, especially in the Midwest. “There are more cases being reported in Southern Ohio and Kentucky – and that probably has something to do with the deer moving out of forested areas and into more suburban areas,” Dr. Blatt says.
The disease is passed by the deer tick, so the more contact you have with deer, the more likely you are to come in contact with ticks infested with Lyme.
The Bottom Line: Catch Lyme Disease Early
While you likely didn’t feel the tick bite, if you notice a rash – resembling a bull’s eye – which usually develops within a few days of the bite, visit your doctor. “There are lots of rashes that are obviously not related to Lyme disease, but the earlier you get treated, if you have it, the better,” Dr. Blatt points out. Other symptoms of early Lyme disease, which begin days or weeks after infection, include:
- General ill feeling
- Joint pain
- Muscle pain
- Stiff neck
If your doctor suspects Lyme disease, he or she will prescribe a two-week antibiotic treatment. This can prevent all long-term complications that develop in stage 3, when the disease has spread throughout the body.