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What Is Stage 3 Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called borrelia bacterium. It is caused when ticks carrying this bacterium bite a person. Lyme disease, if untreated or inadequately treated, can damage almost any organ of the body, including the heart, brain, joints, nervous system etc. hence, Lyme disease presents with a vast variety of symptoms, as the symptoms are mostly related to the particular organ or organs affected.

What is Stage 3 Lyme Disease?

What Is Stage 3 Lyme Disease?

Late disseminated infection is the third stage of the Lyme disease. In this stage, the infection is fully spread throughout the body. If the affected persons are untreated or inadequately treated, they may develop chronic and serious symptoms that may affect any part of the body. The brain, eyes, nerves, heart, joints etc. can get affected posing a serious threat to the life. Impairments in many functions of the body become a serious life-threatening condition.

Symptoms of Stage 3 Lyme Disease

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Mental fogginess, lack of concentration
  • Debilitating migraines or headaches
  • Dizziness, vertigo
  • Numbness in the legs, hands, feet or arms
  • Migrating pains that come and go in tendons/joints
  • Stiff & painful neck
  • Heart rhythm disturbances
  • Arthritis in joints or closer to the point of infection
  • Sleep disturbances, insomnia
  • Problems with having conversations & processing information.

In early stages, with prompt and efficient treatment, Lyme disease can be cured. However, the treatment proves to be inadequate or inefficient when cases get diagnosed at a later stage. In rare cases, Lyme disease can prove to be fatal, due to this very reason.

The characteristic sign in a Lyme disease is a red center and an expanding red rash around it in a circular fashion. It looks like a target and hence is called a target lesion. It looks like a bull’s eye. This rash is known as erythema migrans (EM). The red area in the center is the place of the tick bite. Most of the people develop this rash. But even though the rash is not present in some cases, the disease may still progress to the second stage. There may be other symptoms like fever, headaches, fatigue etc. The condition if not treated in the first stage or inadequately treated, may convert into a more serious affair and cause life threatening conditions like facial palsy-partial or complete, neck stiffness and severe headaches, arrhythmia etc. Some may even experience joint inflammation and stiffness and suffer from arthritis. Joints if affected may cause severe pain which may come in bouts. In some cases, even if proper treatment is carried out, people may experience severe symptoms listed above for up to six months or many week’s or month’s later in life too.

Let us see the classification of the stages of the Lyme disease. The Lyme disease can be classified into three stages, according to the spread of the infection- early localized infection, early disseminated infection and late disseminated infection.

Early Localized Infection

When the infection has not spread into the blood and to other parts of the body, it is called early localized infection. The infection is only present at the site of the tick bite. The sign of this infection is the classic target lesion or the erythema migrans. This red rash tends to expand outwards and is not itchy or painful. Those affected by the condition may also experience some other symptoms like fever, headaches, muscle soreness and fatigue. Generally, when the rash is seen at the site of the tick bite, it is considered to be the first stage of the disease. However, in some cases the disease may progress to the second stage without the presence of the rash.

Early Disseminated Infection

Once the local infection sets in, in some days or weeks, the infection starts spreading into the blood and to the other parts of the body. Erythema migrans may develop at other parts of the body which otherwise have no direct connection with the place of the tick bite. In such cases, many severe and acute neurological symptoms, like facial paralysis-partial or complete, meningitis, mild encephalitis, etc., affect the people. Heart can also get affected, and the electrical conduction system of the heart can get upset, resulting in arrhythmias.

Late Disseminated Infection is the third stage of the Lyme disease.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Lyme Disease: https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html
  2. Mayo Clinic – Lyme Disease: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20374651
  3. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) – Lyme Disease: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/diseases-conditions/lyme-disease

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 3, 2023

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