Lyme disease, also called Lyme borreliosis, is a bacterial infection that can cause flu-like symptoms, rash, muscle and joint pain, and nerve or heart problems. People become infected with Lyme disease when they are bitten by a very small, black-legged tick (usually a deer tick) that is carrying the infection. Typically, the tick must be attached to the body for 24-36 hours to transmit the bacteria into a person’s body.

Ticks that spread Lyme disease are typically found in wooded areas and areas of tall grass and low bushes. Most cases of Lyme disease in the United States occur in the following regions:

  • Northeastern states from Virginia to Maine
  • North-central states, mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota
  • West coast, particularly northern California

Lyme Disease Stages and Symptoms

There are three stages of Lyme disease:

Stage 1: Early stage; the infection is only in the area of the tick bite

Symptoms include:

  • Body-wide itching
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • General ill-feeling
  • Headache
  • Light-headedness or fainting
  • Muscle pain
  • Stiff neck
  • “Bull’s eye” rash (called erythema migrans): Flat or slightly raised red spot at the site of the tick bite, often with a clear area in the center

Stage 2: Middle stage; the infection has started to spread through the body

Symptoms include:

  • Paralysis or weakness in the muscles of the face
  • Muscle pain
  • Pain or swelling in the knees and other large joints
  • Heart problems, such as palpitations

Stage 3: Late stage; the infection has spread through the whole body

Symptoms include:

  • Muscle and joint pain (most common)
  • Abnormal muscle movement
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feelings of numbness and tingling
  • Speech problems