Lyme Disease: Skin Rash
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection (caused by spirochete bacteria found in mice and deer) that can primarily spread into humans from an infected deer tick. Ticks are tiny blood-feeding arachnids (joint-legged invertebrate animals). A bite of an infected black-legged tick, commonly known as a deer tick or Ixodes tick, causes Lyme disease.
Four main species of spiral-shaped bacteria that are known to cause Lyme disease are:
- Borrelia burgdorferi and Borrelia mayonii, mainly cause Lyme disease in the United States.
- Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are the leading causes of lyme disease in Europe and Asia.
In a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Lyme disease is known to infect more than 250,000 people every year. Lyme disease is an underreported and under-researched disease, but Lyme is the fifth most reported noticeable disease in the United States.
Lyme Disease Rash
Lyme rash is supposed to be a common symptom during Lyme infection that usually appears at the infected site of the bite within 3 to 30 days. The infected red-area might expand slowly and may also feel warm to touch. The infected area may appear as a growing red lesion with a crusty center or a normal red circular rash with a clear center. Lyme rashes are mainly observed on the thighs, groin, trunk, and armpit.
As the deer ticks are very small or tiny, it becomes very hard to recognize them and to diagnose the infection. Immature ticks, also known as "nymphs," are about the size of a poppy seed, and adult ticks may be of the size of a sesame seed. When rashes do not appear as a symptom, Lyme disease is diagnosed based on exposure to black-legged ticks.
Is Lyme Disease Rash Itchy?
Lyme disease rash symptoms are usually not painful or itchy. In some people, these rashes develop at more than one place on their bodies. Small red patches all over the body are also observed after about 5 weeks when the infection has spread through the tissues. In severe cases, Lyme disease rashes may get converted into painful red blisters or large itchy bruises.
Lyme Disease Rash Early Stage: "Bulls-Eye" Symptom
It is observed that during the early stages of the disease, more than 70 percent of people develop a rash that is circular in shape and resembles a bull's-eye. It is called Lyme disease bulls-eye rash, and the medical term for such type of distinctive rash is erythema migrans. A bulls-eye rash occurs when the bacteria have begun to multiply in the bloodstream.
Erythema migrans can appear in several forms, such as a uniformly red lesion, red, blue lesion, blistered lesion, disseminated lesion, etc. A bulls-eye rash is known to be the "classic" type rash and appears to contain a central clear ring that slowly expands. Lyme disease's other early-stage symptoms are fever, tiredness, stiffness, swelling in joints, headaches, and muscle aches.
Is Bulls-Eye Rash Always Lyme Disease?
In some cases, people often confuse a normal circular rash as a bulls-eye rash. Ticks are also known to carry some other bacteria, some of which are not as dangerous. Therefore, a rash does mean that a person has Lyme disease.
It is observed that a bulls-eye rash affects less than 50% of infected people, and about 20% of people who have Lyme disease have a flu-like illness with "no rash." Therefore, one should get a proper check-up done before jumping to the conclusion that a rash is due to Lyme's disease.
It is also estimated that about 98% of people don't develop Lyme disease after a tick bite. Accurate diagnosis is very important to confirm a Lyme disease rash symptom. Lyme disease rash in the early stage can be treated well with three weeks of antibiotics.