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Stages of Lyme Disease

British Columbia Specific Information

Ticks are tiny bugs which feed on blood. For information on ticks, removing ticks, and how to avoid being bitten, see HealthLinkBC File #01 Tick Bites and Disease. You may also be interested in the HealthLinkBC File #96 Insect Repellent and DEET.

While most tick bites do not result in diseases, some can. Some of the diseases passed on by ticks include relapsing fever, tularemia, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF), Q Fever and anaplasmosis. The most well-known is Lyme disease. For more information on Lyme Disease, visit BC Centre for Disease Control - Lyme Disease (Borrelia burgdorferi infection).

Overview

When an infected tick bites you, bacteria travel to the tick's salivary glands and then into your body through your skin. It takes at least 24 hours for a tick to transmit the Lyme disease bacteria.

There are three stages of Lyme disease. If the disease isn't treated, it may progress in stages from mild symptoms to serious, long-term disabilities.

  • Stage 1, or early localized Lyme disease, occurs within one month of the tick bite. You may have an expanding, circular red rash (erythema migrans), and/or flu-like symptoms. Some people do not have symptoms.
  • Stage 2, or early disseminated infection, can develop days to weeks after you become infected. If Lyme disease isn't found or treated early, the infection may affect the skin, joints, nervous system, and heart within weeks to months after the initial infection.
  • Stage 3, or late persistent Lyme disease, can develop months or years after infection. If the disease hasn't been promptly or effectively treated, you may have damage to the joints, nerves, and brain. It is the last and often the most serious stage of the disease.

Credits

Current as of: October 31, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Christine Hahn MD - Epidemiology
W. David Colby IV MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease