Lyme Disease

Lyme disease is a bacterial illness and inflammatory condition that spreads through tick bites. Deer ticks harbor the spirochete bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) in their stomachs. When one of these ticks bites human skin, it can transmit the bacteria into the body. These ticks are often attracted to creases in the body, so Lyme disease commonly appears in armpits, the nape of the neck, or the back of the knees.

Lyme disease cases have been reported in every state, although it is more prevalent in the Northeast, Upper Midwest, and Pacific Coast. It has also been documented in European and Asian countries.

Our dermatologists at Lupton Dermatology help manage Lyme disease by identifying and treating the distinctive rash caused by tick bites. Our skin experts monitor the rash's progress and ensure an effective treatment plan is in place to help you manage Lyme disease's skin symptoms. If you suspect Lyme disease, schedule an appointment with our team for comprehensive care and support.

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

  • In the early stages, flu-like symptoms appear such as fever, fatigue, muscle aches, and headaches.
  • One of the hallmark signs of Lyme disease is a circular, red rash resembling a bull's-eye.
  • If left untreated, Lyme disease can progress to more severe symptoms, including joint pain, neurological issues, and cardiac abnormalities.

Causes of Lyme Disease

  • Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected black-legged ticks.
  • The ticks become infected when they feed on small mammals, such as mice, carrying the bacteria, and subsequently transmit the bacteria to humans.

How to Prevent Lyme Disease

The best form of prevention is to avoid tick bites. Use insect repellent containing DEET. Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors. Tuck the sleeves into gloves and pants into socks to keep your skin covered. After a hike, check the skin and look for any tick bites, especially on children.

If you do find a tick, don’t panic. Use tweezers to disengage the tick from the skin. Grab the tick by the head or mouthparts as close as possible to where the bite has entered the skin. Pull firmly and steadily away from the skin until the tick disengages. Clean the bite wound with disinfectant and monitor the bite mark for other symptoms. You can place the tick in a jar or plastic bag and take it to your dermatologist for examination.

Lyme Disease FAQs

The most common skin symptom of Lyme disease is a characteristic rash known as erythema migrans. It typically appears as a red, bull's-eye-shaped rash at the site of the tick bite. Other skin manifestations may include smaller rashes, hives, or bluish discoloration.

Dermatologists may diagnose Lyme disease based on the clinical appearance of the characteristic rash. Additionally, they may consider the patient's history of exposure to ticks and may conduct blood tests to confirm the diagnosis.

While skin manifestations are common, Lyme disease typically does not affect the nails or hair directly. The focus is often on identifying and treating the characteristic rash, joint pain, and other systemic symptoms.

In some cases, Lyme disease may lead to chronic skin issues, such as acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans (ACA). ACA is a rare, late-stage skin manifestation characterized by progressive skin changes, including thinning and discoloration. Dermatologists can assess and manage chronic skin issues associated with Lyme disease.

No, not all Lyme disease rashes are bull's-eye shaped. While the classic erythema migrans rash has a bull's-eye appearance, other rashes associated with Lyme disease may be uniformly red or resemble hives. Dermatologists are trained to recognize the varied skin presentations of Lyme disease.

Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme disease is diagnosed through a combination of a visual examination and a blood test for Lyme bacteria antibodies. Most cases of Lyme disease are curable using antibiotics, but the longer the delay, the more difficult it is to treat. Your dermatologist may prescribe medications to help alleviate joint stiffening. 

If you suspect a tick bite, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist to determine your next steps for treatment.