Has Your Lyme Disease Gone Undiagnosed?

By learning more about Lyme disease, individuals can get a better understanding of how it is caused, treated, and how this type of tick-borne illness can be prevented.

Lyme Disease is?

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected deer tick. Deer ticks are commonly found on grasses and shrubs near wooded areas. Young deer ticks usually feed in the late spring and early summer and that’s when people usually acquire Lyme disease.

Some of the symptoms of early Lyme disease can mimic other illnesses. For example, symptoms may include fever, aches in the muscles and joints, and a headache as if you have the flu. If you don’t notice a rash and your symptoms are relatively mild, or if your rash is very faint and hidden (i.e., on the back of the neck or under your arm), you may think this is a viral illness and ignore it.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease

Later symptoms of Lyme disease include migrating joint pain, meningitis, nerve pain in an arm or leg, or arthritis affecting a large joint such as the knee. Symptoms can vary from person to person and patients who are not treated early can have more severe manifestations. Although many patients with Lyme disease complain of fatigue, we don’t usually diagnose Lyme disease in patients with fatigue alone. Blood testing requires a bit of experience to interpret and unfortunately some people are told that they have Lyme disease who really don’t.

Preventing Lyme Disease

When a tick attaches to you, remove it immediately. If the tick is not engorged with blood, the likelihood of transmission is close to zero; the tick has to be attached for at least 36 to 48 hours before it can transmit Lyme. This is because the Lyme bacteria have to go from the gut of the tick to the tick’s salivary glands before it can be passed to the person the tick is biting, and that takes some time.

To prevent bites:

  • Be careful in areas where mice and deer like to congregate, such as the edge of the woods next to a lawn or meadow. Try to clear these areas of debris, logs and branches.
  • Wear long clothing and use bug spray
  • Take a hot shower at the end of the day to wash ticks off.
  • Perform a body check in the evening especially in late spring and early summer

Getting Well with Lyme Disease

  • Lyme disease almost always resolves when appropriate antibiotics are given.
  • Listen to your body! Rest when feeling fatigued, exercise to increase your energy level, and continue to eat a balanced diet. These activities will not necessarily shorten your recovery time but will help you feel better during treatment.
  • It can sometimes take weeks or even months for symptoms to completely resolve after completion of antibiotics.
  • If you experience additional symptoms after being prescribed antibiotics, speak to your physician so that they can properly monitor your condition
  • Lyme disease is an infection, and you should get better if treated properly.

Reviewed on April 26, 2018. 

Dr. Anne R. Bass specializes in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, vasculitis, systemic lupus erythematosus and inflammatory eye disease. She is the director of the HSS rheumatology fellowship program and an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine.

The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.


  1. I am glad to see this article on HSS. I was also bit by a tick before all my Rheumatological issues started. Unfortunately, by my experience, many doctors underestimate or fail to recognize the long lasting and debilitating effects the many tick borne illness can leave an individual with. I was treated with a course of Doxycycline at the time but am still struggling to fully regain my health 3 years later. Thank you HSS for posting this.

    1. Hi Jennifer, we’re glad to hear that you found our post to be informative. Wishing you all the best!

  2. I had lyme disease approx 10 to 12 years ago. I had a tick in my back for 3 days before i noticed it. It was itchy but when i went to scratch it hurt. My husband pulled it out but it had time to infect me. I had a red ring around the tick bite. This is called a bullseye. I never had headaches until this happened and the headaches were enough to put me under. I asked my husband to shoot me and put me out of my misery. It felt as if someone was hitting my head with a hammer. The the light was to bright for my eyes. Any light made my eyes hurt. However, when i finally noticed the bullseye i went to my doctor. He did a test on it but the test doesnt recognize this disease because in fact does mimic so many other diseases. The doctor gave me an antibotic and then after i went to the library to get information on lyme disease. The best thing i had done was go to church and get prayer. I was healed because it left my body and ive not been bothered by it again!

  3. I was dx with Lyme Disease laat year,.and was unable to keep the meds down for more then 3 days. I sleep all of the time now, I have a constant headache (I NEVER get headaches, and.I have had this since January.. I am sick of.feeling like I have the flu… The left side of my face is numb now too. Is there anything I can do to feel better?

    1. Hi Dawn, thank you for reaching out. Dr. Anne Bass, Rheumatologist, says: Doxycycline commonly causes nausea. If that’s what you were treated with, and if Lyme disease is the cause of your symptoms, then you could be given a course of amoxicillin as an alternative (assuming you are not allergic to penicillin). You should check with your doctor to make sure there isn’t another cause for your symptoms, and also consult with a neurologist about your facial numbness. If you wish to seek a consultation at HSS, please contact our Physician Referral Service at 877-606-1555 for further assistance.

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