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What Does a Lyme Disease Rash Look Like?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 March 2014
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Lyme disease is an illness caused when humans are exposed to bacteria carried by certain kinds of ticks, principally deer ticks. It can have a variety of symptoms including flulike symptoms initially. When the disease is untreated these can later progress to arthritic conditions in a variety of the joints, mood changes, and deterioration of muscle function. Another symptom that may be associated with this illness is the Lyme disease rash. Though this isn’t present in all people who get the condition, it can be something to watch for and is a good indication of infection. Being able to recognize Lyme disease rash is important, but it must be stressed that its absence doesn’t necessarily mean a person is free of infection.

The Lyme disease rash is often called a bull’s-eye rash. This is due to the way it looks a few days after it initially appears. At first, the rash doesn’t look like a bull’s-eye. Instead, it tends to look like one red bump, basically resembling an insect bite.

The bump is usually located right at the site of the tick bite, so if people know where a tick bite occurred, they could circle the area with a pen to see if that area develops any skin irritation. Many people choose not to have ticks evaluated for Lyme disease and instead wait for a Lyme disease rash to appear before they see their doctors. This may not always be the wisest course.

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What tends to happen next in the standard Lyme disease rash is that the redness spreads, and the size of the rash can vary in diameter from about one to five inches (2.54-12.7 cm). As the rash spreads, the middle section of it can start to fade. Thus there is a red center, a red exterior and a faded middle, which looks a little bit like a dartboard or a bull’s eye.

While it would be ideal if this rash always develops, it doesn’t. Sometimes people get a number of bumps on the skin and other times they get no rash. Time of development can vary too, and people might show the beginning of a Lyme disease rash just a few days after a bite to up to a month later. What this suggests is that looking for rash alone cannot be the only diagnostic guideline people employ when deciding if they have Lyme disease.

Certainly, presence of Lyme disease rash is an important indicator, but people should be aware of the other symptoms of Lyme. It’s also highly recommended that folks get any ticks removed from the skin analyzed for the disease, since this can suggest degree of risk. Developing other symptoms after a tick bite is valuable diagnostic information too, and those who have been in Lyme tick areas recently, even if they didn’t notice a bite and don’t have a rash, should mention this to doctors if they develop fever, chills, achiness and other flulike symptoms.

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Discuss this Article

Trisha9387
Post 4

Thank you for that accurate information. It's so often misunderstood, even by doctors.

anon177333
Post 3

I got a tick bite, removed a not-engorged female tick within 24 hours and developed bulls eye rash right away and got sleepy the next day and had a head ache. I went to my doctor the next day and started 100mg Doxycycline 2x a day for 21 days. My symptoms are gone. The bulls eye rash is almost gone but now I have new symptoms attributed to the drug: diarrhea, nausea, yeast infection, yellowish skin, lack of appetite. Anything better than Lyme Disease though!

Proxy414
Post 2

Other symptoms of lyme disease include fatigue, or a strong sleepiness. This is a flu-like symptom which is due to viral incursion slowing the body down. Avoiding long hikes through thick woods during tick season is an important way to prevent this disease.

SilentBlue
Post 1

The clarity with which this bullseye is seen can vary depending on the person. With some people, it is quite obvious, and an immediate diagnosis is easy. With others, especially with people who have darker skin or skin that is less sensitive, this bullseye may be very hard to detect. That is why you need to be sure that you aren't experiencing other symptoms so that you can catch this disease at its earliest stage.

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