What Are The Symptoms Of Lyme Arthritis?

If you're a fan of the great outdoors, then you know there's a certain level of preparation that goes into just about any outing. And if you happen to live in the northeast United States, the southeastern region of Canada, or much of Europe, those preparations probably include some sort of anti-tick protection.

This isn't just to avoid uncomfortable bites, either. Mayo Clinic explains that these regions are the common homes of the ticks most infamous for carrying Lyme disease. North Americans have to deal with deer ticks, while Europeans must protect themselves against the castor bean tick.

Those who venture outdoors without protection risk tick bites, which can expose them to Lyme disease. It's a disease that occurs in three phases and its symptoms vary depending on the stage of the disease. The symptoms often begin as worsening of previous symptoms. But patients also report new complaints as well, particularly if the disease has been able to progress without treatment.

Each stage of the disease can have some arthritis-like symptoms, such as the stiffness that comes with the first phase or the radiating back and knee pain that can develop during the second (via Mayo Clinic). But those symptoms can also be signs of another disease that develops in the wake of Lyme disease, one that is less well-known. They could be a sign of Lyme arthritis.

A uniquely thorny form of arthritis

The CDC states that Lyme arthritis occurs in a quarter of all like disease cases. Symptoms can occur in multiple areas of the body, including the knees, wrists, elbows, and hips.

In addition to the stiffness and pain that can accompany other forms of Lyme disease, Lyme arthritis can cause swelling in one of the affected joints. The affected joint may be warm to the touch. Swelling can also occur between joints and, as the CDC says, can be very difficult to detect in joints like the jaw and shoulder.

Lyme arthritis typically develops anywhere from one month to several months after someone contracts Lyme disease. The usual treatment requires several weeks of antibiotics (via the CDC). Symptoms might persist after initial treatment has been completed, but additional antibiotics have not been shown to help.

Some people may be tempted to skip treatment and simply wait out the symptoms, but the CDC advises against this. Without treatment, Lyme arthritis can cause permanent joint damage. Mayo Clinic states that some Lyme disease patients already report arthritis symptoms that begin with the condition and do not improve once it has been treated. Forgoing treatment only increases these odds, making it best to get treatment even if symptoms persist afterward.