There are around 30,000 reported cases of Lyme disease every year. However, it’s estimated the actual number of infections is around ten times that as many cases go unreported or undiagnosed.
If you’ve been suffering from an unknown chronic illness, you may be dealing with advanced Lyme disease.
To get a better idea if this could be what you’ve got, we gathered a list of symptoms seen in later stages of Lyme disease. If you believe you may have this, be sure to bring it up to your doctor.
Keep reading to find out more about the symptoms of Lyme disease that show up after the initial infection.
What Causes Lyme Disease?
Before we jump into the symptoms, you’ll need to understand how Lyme disease develops. The initial infection is caused by a bacteria known as Borrelia burgdorferi that ticks pick up from other animals and transfer to humans.
The earliest symptom is a rash that typically starts at the bite site, but not everybody experiences the rash and it can be misdiagnosed if it doesn’t follow the characteristic “bulls-eye” pattern.
If an early diagnosis is missed, the bacteria is allowed to continue to spread throughout the body. It begins attacking joints, the nervous system, and sometimes the heart as well.
Many people with chronic Lyme disease can experience symptoms for months or years without a proper diagnosis because there are other more common conditions that have similar symptoms.
Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms
Now let’s look at these symptoms that develop over time in a person’s body after they’ve been infected by a tick bite. Keep in mind that a person could have all or just a few of these symptoms and that they vary in severity.
1. Arthritis or Joint Pain
The most common joints affected by Lyme disease are the knees, elbows, and other large joints. Typically, joint pain caused by undiagnosed Lyme disease is severe and debilitating, but it can also be intermittent.
Swelling in your joints is another symptom. When your body tries to fight the bacteria, blood cells and fluid are moved to that area, leading to swelling.
2. Severe Headaches
If the bacteria gets to your brain and spinal cord, you could experience severe headaches or stiffness in the neck. These can often be mistaken for migraines or stress headaches.
Alone, this symptom may not be enough to diagnose Lyme disease, but if you’re experiencing some of the other symptoms on this list, it’s worth bringing it up to your doctor, even if you don’t remember being bitten by a tick.
3. Paralysis of the Face
This is another neurologic symptom of Lyme disease that can be terrifying. Also known as facial palsy, it can happen on one or both sides of your face.
You may notice a simple loss of muscle tone in your face, and it looks like one or both sides of your face are drooping. This means the bacteria have reached the nerves that control these facial muscles.
4. Memory Loss
Some sufferers describe this as having a “brain fog.” They have a hard time remembering things, especially recent events. This short-term memory loss may be misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease in older people or those with a family history.
Some other similar symptoms include:
- Inability to focus or concentrate
- Lack of impulse control
- Reduced ability to make decisions
- Slowing of mental processes
You may also find yourself getting lost, even in familiar places, or your thoughts have become disorganized.
When you feel like you might pass out or have frequent incidences of vertigo, this could be a symptom of chronic Lyme disease. These are caused by an infection of the eighth cranial nerve.
Damage to this nerve can also cause hearing problems and tinnitus, which are other things you should be looking for if you suspect that your balance issues are being caused by Lyme disease.
As you’ll soon see, this dizziness can also be caused by heart problems. These can prevent your brain from getting enough oxygen which leads to dizziness.
6. Nerve Pains
As you might have suspected, if your nerves are being damaged, you will experience pain. These nerve pains can occur in nearly any part of the body but are most common in muscles, tendons, bones, and joints.
You may also feel this symptom in your hands and feet. It manifests as numbness, shooting pains, or tingling in these areas of your body. If you have no other reason to be experiencing these symptoms, it could be Lyme disease.
7. Irregular Heartbeat
When the bacteria from a tick bite reaches your heart, it’s known as Lyme carditis. Lyme carditis can cause some of the other symptoms associated with advanced Lyme disease including fainting, light-headedness, and shortness of breath.
It will also cause an irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations because the nerves and muscles of the heart are being affected. You may or may not experience chest pain as well.
This condition can progress rapidly and can be life-threatening. For this reason, you need to make your doctor aware of any other symptoms related to Lyme disease, so the underlying condition can also be treated.
Many people with chronic Lyme disease are misdiagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome. However, fatigue is one of the many symptoms of Lyme disease as it spreads to your endocrine system.
The endocrine system includes your adrenal glands, thyroid, and other parts of the body that produce hormones. Part of the job of your hormones is to give you the energy you need to go about your day.
When these systems are attacked by Lyme disease, your hormone levels are impacted and you begin to experience fatigue.
Think You Have Advanced Lyme Disease?
Now you know more about the symptoms of advanced Lyme disease. As we said before, if you think you may have this condition, the best thing for you to do is contact your doctor immediately to confirm the diagnosis.
If you’re still not sure what you have, be sure to check out our blog for more articles that could help you uncover the cause. We also have articles on how to cope with chronic pain.