Tick bites can cause Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain spotted fever, which must be treated by a physician. Ticks cause 20,000 new cases of Lyme disease in the United States each year, especially in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and north-central states. Visit the website and Check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Lyme Disease map to see how prevalent it is in your area. Several hundred to more than one thousand new cases of Rocky Mountain spotted fever are reported each year, although it is likely that many cases go unreported.
Lyme disease is usually treated easily when caught early enough. Early symptoms of Lyme disease usually appear within a few weeks of infection and include:
- A bull’s-eye-shaped rash — white in the center and bright red on the outside; but this is not true in all cases.
- Flu-like symptoms, such as a feeling of weakness or discomfort, sore throat, dry cough, stiff neck, headache swollen glands and fatigue.
- Photosensitivity (light sensitivity to the eyes or skin).
Left untreated, Lyme disease may spread to the heart, brain and nervous system. Later-stage symptoms of Lyme disease are more serious and can include:
- Arthritis, particularly in the knees, which can become chronic if the infection goes untreated
- Severe headaches
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Bell’s palsy (a condition that causes facial muscles to weaken or become paralyzed)
- Cognitive difficulties
- Memory loss
- Numbness and tingling or coordination problems
- Extreme fatigue
- Chronic or extreme muscle pain
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Rocky Mountain spotted fever is the most severe of the tick-borne illnesses. After an incubation period of about 5 to 10 days, people with Rocky Mountain spotted fever have signs and symptoms that include:
- Sudden onset of fever
- Muscle pain
- Rash on hands and feet
The disease can be difficult to diagnose in the early stages, and without prompt and appropriate treatment it can be fatal. Antibiotic treatment is effective if it begins early enough.