Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(2):309

See related article on Lyme disease.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection caused by bacteria (germs). The bacteria that cause Lyme disease are carried by deer ticks and western blacklegged ticks. The disease can be passed to animals and people through tick bites. These ticks are about the size of a sesame seed.

Who gets Lyme disease?

People who work outside or in wooded areas, such as park rangers and construction workers, are at most risk of getting Lyme disease. It is most common in rural and suburban areas in the northeastern and midwestern United States. Lyme disease is found in other parts of the United States, as well as in Europe, Asia, and Australia.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Lyme disease can cause a rash on your skin. Usually, the rash shows up 3 to 30 days after a tick bite. The rash is called erythema migrans (say: “ear-a-THEEM-a MY-granz”). It usually starts at the site of the bite. It may start as a small red spot and grow larger. The center may fade, making it look like a bull’s-eye. Sometimes the rash does not clear in the middle, and it may even be darker in the middle.

If you have Lyme disease, you also may have muscle aches and joint pain, headache, drooping of part of the face, or flu-like symptoms.

How is Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics. It is important for you to take all the medicine your doctor prescribes to keep the disease from spreading to your joints, nervous system, or heart. If you have problems with the medicine, don’t quit taking it. Call and tell your doctor about your problems.

Where can I get more information?

Lyme Disease Foundation

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