Lyme disease is one of the most complex multisystem conditions, affecting various systems such as the musculoskeletal, cutaneous, cardiac, and nervous systems, presenting a variety of clinical manifestations at different stages.

Although patients with B. burgdorferi infection can be asymptomatic, most cases of Lyme disease fall into three major stages:
A. Early localized disease (usually < 30 days post-exposure)
B. Early disseminated disease (< 6 months post-exposure)
C. Late disseminated disease (> 6 months post-exposure) 8.

Early Localized Disease (< 30 days)

The incubation period ranges from 3 to 32 days, after which a characteristic skin rash known as erythema migrans appears, accompanied by fever, headache, malaise, and myalgia.

Erythema Migrans

The rash is the hallmark of Lyme disease. It typically starts as a central red spot, surrounded by a clear circle with a larger outer red circle over 5 cm in diameter. The rash is flat and usually non-itchy. The skin rash signifies the spread of infection into the skin tissues. It usually appears at the site of the tick bite within 3 to 30 days 1. Similar but smaller rashes may appear three to five weeks later as the bacteria spread through tissues 2. Sometimes, the rash is just a red spot 3. Early symptoms are flu-like. Approximately 50% of people with Lyme disease experience flu-like symptoms within a week of infection 4.


Fatigue, exhaustion, and lack of energy are the most common symptoms. Lyme fatigue may feel different from regular fatigue, where you can pinpoint activity as a cause. This fatigue seems to engulf your body and can be very intense 5.


Joint pain and stiffness, often intermittent, are common symptoms of Lyme disease. Joints become swollen and painful. Stiffness or limitation in joint movement due to joint pain may also occur 6. At the same time, the pains may migrate from knees to shoulders or neck. Bursitis is also not uncommon 7.

Fever, night sweats, Headache 8

Early Disseminated Disease (< 6 months)

After several weeks to months, neurological and cardiac abnormalities may be reported in 8-15% of patients.

Multiple erythema migrans 9
Fever 10
Arthralgia and myalgia 11
Headache 12
Lymphadenopathy 13
Atrioventricular block 14
Tachyarrhythmias 15
Myopericarditis 16

Myocardial dysfunction 17
Aseptic meningitis 18, 19
Cranial neuropathy (especially facial nerve palsy) 20
Motor or sensory radiculopathy 21
Painful radicular syndromes
Ocular symptoms (e.g., double vision)

Late Disseminated Disease (> 6 months)

Patients may present with chronic monoarticular or oligoarticular arthritis, involving large joints, especially the knee. The most severe manifestations of this condition are Lyme neuroborreliosis, reported in 10-15% of individuals with localized erythema migrans.

Oligoarticular arthritis 22
Encephalopathy 23, 24
Axonal polyradiculoneuropathy 25, 26

Chronic encephalomyelitis 27, 28
Cutaneous symptoms 29, 30, 31, 32

The symptoms
of Lyme disease

according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) guideline 33


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13. Smiyan, Svitlana, et al. "Sjögren’s syndrome and lymphadenopathy unraveling the diagnosis of Lyme disease." Reumatologia 57.1 (2019): 59.
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27. Uhde, Melanie, et al. "C-reactive protein response in patients with post-treatment Lyme disease symptoms versus those with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome." Clinical Infectious Diseases 67.8 (2018): 1309-1310.
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