No. A certain kind of rash, called erythema migrans, is a telltale symptom of Lyme disease, and if you have it call your doctor immediately. But not everyone who has Lyme exhibits a rash, much less the “bullseye” rash so often associated with Lyme disease.
The chart below illustrates several of the forms these rashes might take.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that as many as 70% may exhibit the erythema migrans, but this can vary by region. For example, a 2010 study showed that in the state of Maine only 43% of Lyme patients exhibited this particular type of rash.
There are many symptoms of Lyme disease and it is critical that you are alert to all of them. See Lyme Disease Symptoms for more information.
Don’t Be Fooled
Lyme disease is often referred to as the great imitator because so many of its symptoms resemble those of other diseases. Without a telltale skin rash, it can be very hard to diagnose Lyme disease. Many people never recall being bitten.
Below is a list of just some of diseases that many people have initially been diagnosed with, only to receive a Lyme diagnosis later:
- Arthritis: typically manifesting as joint pain, swelling, redness, heat, and limitation of movement
- Juvenile idiopathic arthritis: a childhood disease that causes joint inflammation and swelling
- Fibromyalgia: especially widespread muscle and soft tissue pain
- Chronic fatigue syndrome: severe and debilitating fatigue
- Multiple sclerosis: leading to problems with muscle control and strength, vision, balance, sensation, and mental functioning
- Lupus: joint pain, swelling, may affect kidneys, brain and other organs
If you suspect Lyme, even if you do not recall being bitten, try to recall where and when you might have been exposed to infected ticks, and discuss the situation and symptoms with your doctor.
Image courtesy of Emily M. Eng