You suddenly can’t multitask
Lyme disease can cause cognitive issues that make it hard to concentrate on more than one task. “Oftentimes people can attend to multiple things at one time even with background noise; it doesn’t distract them because they can focus,” says Kenneth Liegner, MD, internist in Pawling, New York, and author of In the Crucible of Chronic Lyme Disease: Collected Writings & Associated Materials. But for people with Lyme disease, sensory overload might make it hard to multitask. Learn more about what it's really like to live with Lyme disease.
You’re abnormally forgetful
Age might not be to blame for your sudden forgetfulness. People with Lyme disease could experience short-term memory loss, making it hard to remember what other people said, where they put things, and when they made appointments, says Judith Leventhal, PhD, psychologist. “People who were avid readers have difficulty reading because they’re unable to retain what they read … even within the same page,” Liegner says. Find out which states are most dangerous for Lyme disease.
You can't shake your fatigue
The exhaustion that Lyme patients can feel goes beyond sleepiness: a person might feel too fatigued to stand up from the couch to go make a cup of soup, says Sandy Barenbaum, LCSW, BCD, co-author of When Your Child Has Lyme Disease: A Parent’s Survival Guide and psychotherapist for those with Lyme. “If you’re tired [without Lyme disease], you rest, get up, and you’re raring to go. A nap could fix it,” she says. “The fatigue of Lyme is equivalent to the fatigue of congestive heart failure.” Lyme disease can keep people from going through normal sleep cycles, adding to the exhaustion, Leventhal says. Here are other common medical causes of fatigue.
Your throat hurts
An extremely sore throat could be an indicator of Lyme disease. “When Lyme patients start out with a sore throat, it’s usually a very intense sore throat and often out of proportion to what a doctor would…expect to see for that level of sore throat,” says Pat Smith, president of Lyme Disease Association. Check out these natural sore throat remedies.
It’s hard to filter out sounds
The sense of hearing can become hyperactive in some Lyme cases, making it hard to focus on one conversation in a crowded room, and noises that a typical person wouldn’t pay attention to might seem suddenly unbearable. “I’ve heard patients who report they’re in their bedroom but can hear a faucet dripping in the kitchen half a house away,” Liegner says. “That’s very disturbing to them.” Find out how to avoid tick-borne diseases when you're outside.
Your feet hurt
If you haven’t had a long day walking around or injured your foot, yet your feet hurt for no obvious reason, Lyme might be behind your pain. Patients might not notice the soreness throughout the day, but they feel the jolt when they stand up after getting out of bed, says Daniel Cameron, MD, MPH, a Lyme disease expert. “They’re not really seeing anything by X-ray or exam, but it hurts when they stand on their feet,” he says. Find out which other types of joint pain are a sign of something serious.
Your heartbeat is slow
Lyme disease can cause heart problems, the most common being heart block, when inflammation blocks the electrical signals that let the heart know when to contract, causing it to beat too slowly, Liegner says. “If the heart becomes too slow, a person will pass out,” he says. Don't miss these other scary diseases you can pick up from ticks.
You have headaches
Unlike a traditional migraine, the headaches that come with Lyme disease usually feel like pressure head pain, Cameron says. “People always think it’s sinuses,” he says. Barenbaum, who dealt with Lyme-related headaches for 40 years, says the ones she experienced were more severe than a typical sinus headache and felt as intense as a migraine. Here are more types of headaches and how to stop them.
You’ve lost appetite for certain foods
Lyme disease can affect the sense of taste, making foods you used to enjoy suddenly unappealing, and kids affected by Lyme disease might refuse the foods you serve. “It limits the number of foods they can eat,” Leventhal says. “It can look like an eating disorder because only certain foods or textures are tolerated.” If you find a tick on your body, learn the only way you should ever remove a tick.
You suddenly have compulsive behavior
With Lyme disease, sometimes the signals that usually tell brain circuits to turn off after you’ve finished a task don’t work properly, leading you to feel the need to do things over and over, Leventhal says. You might not be able to get out of the house until you’re satisfied that everything is in order. “We’ve all had the experience of making sure the oven is off. We check it and leave the house,” she says. “Someone with obsessive compulsive symptoms keeps checking. They get to the front door and check it again to make sure.”