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Lyme Disease Rash Photos: Early-Stage, Bull’s-Eye, and Atypical Rashes

Lyme disease photos

I recently got Lyme disease for the first time.  Luckily, I was able to catch it early and, other than a few days of extreme fatigue, I am doing fine.  Since my Lyme rash didn’t look like a standard bull’s-eye rash right away, I thought I’d share some photos of my Lyme rash as well as photos of the standard bull’s-eye rash and atypical rashes.

 

Does Lyme Disease Always Form a Rash?

According to the CDC, a rash will form in 70% to 80% of Lyme cases within 30 days of being bit. In % of cases, a rash will form near the site of the tick bite within 30 days.  The rash usually doesn’t itch and will gradually expand.  It’s possible that the rash occurs in more cases but simply wasn’t noticed.  Likewise, it can be very hard for black people and dark-skinned people to notice a Lyme disease rash on their skin.

It’s important to realize that Lyme disease rashes don’t always look like a bull’s eye. If you’ve been bit by a tick and any sort of rash forms in the days or weeks afterwards, see a doctor!

Also read: 

 

Early-Stage Lyme Disease Rash Photos

In my case, I removed a nymph tick from behind knee on August 1st.  I’m really diligent about checking for ticks and even carry a tweezers with me in my wallet and my hiking first aid kit.  But, I guess I must have missed it or pissed it off while removing it.  Anyway, by August 14th, I noticed a smallish red rash on the spot.

The red rash (more like splotch) was only about 2 inches across. It was very narrow and followed the crease of my knee.  It would be considered an “atypical Lyme rash.”  Unlike what the CDC says, my Lyme rash actually itched a little bit.

I immediately went to the lab for a test.  While waiting for the test result, the rash started spreading.  It still didn’t look like a bull’s-eye rash, but was definitely getting bigger, which is a sign of Lyme.  I also started feeling tired as hell and my back hurt (though the back pain might have been from hiking with my 2-year old in her backpack carrier the day before).

Photo #1: 17 Days Post Bite

Lyme rash 17 days post-bite. The rash started noticeably spreading at this point but was not a bull’s-eye shape.


Photo #2: 22 Days Post-Bite

The photo below shows my Lyme rash at 22 days post-bite.  It still doesn’t have a distinct shape to it but, when I pulled my skin taught, I could see the formation of a bull’s-eye shape.

This is when I got the results my IGM test result back.  The test result was 3 U/ml, which isn’t a “positive” (read the CDC info about Lyme tests here).  However, because it was obvious that it was Lyme at this point I was prescribed antibiotics. Within two days, my energy came back.

Had I waited longer to get treatment, the rash probably would have turned into an obvious bull’s-eye and I could face serious symptoms.  As I said earlier, don’t wait until you have a bull’s-eye rash to seek treatment! 

early lyme disease rash 22 days post tick bite

The Lyme rash at 22 days post-bite.  If you look closely, you can see it’s starting to form a bull’s-eye shape.  I started antibiotics at this point.


Photo #3: One-Week Post Bite

Below is another photo of an atypical Lyme disease rash, one week after the tick bite.  As you can see, it just looks like a generic red rash which could be from any number of things.  Unfortunately, this Lyme didn’t get treated.  The photo afterwards (#4) shows the same rash at 8 weeks post-tick bite.  By then, it actually looks like a bull’s eye but it would have been easier to treat early on!

Early stage lyme rash

Lyme rash one week post-bite

 

Photo #4: 8 Weeks Post-Bite

untreated Lyme rash at 8 weeks

Same Lyme rash from #3, 8-weeks post bite (untreated)

 

Typical Bull’s-Eye Lyme Rash Photos

Below are pictures of the bull’s-eye Lyme rash.  It typically starts out as a small red rash and develops the bull’s-eye shape as it spreads.  You’ll see a concentrated area of red in the center followed by a lighter color red around the edges.  The lighter colored area will expand outwards, leaving a white ring around the center.

Photo #5

Lyme disease rash showing typical bull's-eye shape


Photo #6:

large bull's-eye shaped Lyme disease rash on arm


Photo #7

faint Lyme disease rash but still showing typical bull's-eye shape


Photo #8

The Lyme rash below might be small, but it still has the characteristic bull’s-eye shape.

small bull's-eye Lyme rash


Photo #9

Lyme disease rashes can spread to be over 12 inches across.  The photo below is one example of how large the rash can get.  The distinct bands of color are a giveaway that it’s a Lyme rash.

very large expanding Lyme disease rash


Atypical Lyme Rashes and Less-Distinct Bull’s-Eyes

In some cases, the Lyme disease rash doesn’t look like a bull’s eye at all.  It can be blistered (as seen here), cause a bluish swelling (as shown here on the ear), be uniform in color instead of banded, be oval or triangular in shape, or just look like a large red area (as shown here).  You can see a picture of atypical Lyme disease on a black man here.

There are also many instances of Lyme rashes which are considered to be bull’s-eye shaped, but don’t have the white band inside.  The message? Don’t expect a Lyme rash to look like a perfect bull’s eye.  If you suspect Lyme, contact your doctor!

 

Photo #10: 3 Weeks Post-Bite

This rash is considered to be a bull’s-eye rash even though it lacks a white band in the middle.  The photo was taken at three weeks post bite.

Lyme rash with central crust


Photo #11

This photo of Lyme disease has a distinct outer ring but the center areas isn’t an obvious red circle.  It could easily be mistaken for psoriasis or eczema.

circular Lyme rash with red outer ring crust


Photo #12

The photo below is a bull’s-eye Lyme rash.  However, you can’t see the circular shape because it is hidden under the hair. The distinct red band is the main sign that it’s Lyme and not another rash.

Lyme disease rash hidden in hair


Photo #13

This Lyme rash behind the knee is so dark it almost looks like a bruise.  It isn’t uniform in color throughout but does have a banded shape.

Dark atypical Lyme disease rash behind knee

Late-Stage Lyme Disease Rash

Photo #14

I’m not sure how long it has been since this boy was bit by a tick, but the untreated Lyme disease is spreading.  He now has multiple rashes on  his body. You can even see some rash on  his finger.

untreated Lyme disease rash spread to other parts of the body


Remember that Lyme disease is unlikely if you correctly remove a tick within 24 hours.  Get yourself a good tick removal tool and keep it with you at all times!

 

Image credits:
EM Rash Lyme Disease” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by Archivemistress
Lyme Disease Bulls Eye” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by cmkalina
If you see a bulls eye rash, you probabl” (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) by eyewashdesign: A. Golden
Lyme disease” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by monkeypuzzle
Erythema chronicum migrans / Lyme diseas” (CC BY-NC 2.0) by no
Bullseye Lyme Rash, by Jongarrison, Creative Commons BY-SA 2.5 License
Atypical erythema migrans, by Mikael Häggström
Lyme young boy, by Lamiot, CC BY-SA 3.0
Lyme 3 Weeks, by Wilinckx,  CC BY-SA 3.0 .
Lyme Disease Rash,  by Guswen, CC BY-SA 4.0
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About the author /


Diane Vukovic grew up camping and backpacking in upstate New York. Now, she takes her own daughters on wilderness adventures so they can connect with nature and learn resiliency. With dozens of trips under her belt, Diane is an expert in minimalist camping, going lightweight, planning, and keeping her kids entertained without screens.

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