Amy Schumer shared surprising news with her fans Tuesday evening: She has Lyme disease, and she thinks she’s had it for a while.
“Anyone get LYME this summer? I got it and I’m on doxycycline. I have maybe had it for years,” the Schumer wrote on Instagram. The 39-year-old comedian then asked people for advice, like whether it’s OK to drink wine and said she’s also taking “herbs from Cape Cod called lyme-2.”
She ended on this note: “I also want to say that I feel good and am excited to get rid of it.”
Lyme disease is a vector-borne disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and, in rare cases, Borrelia mayonii, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Lyme disease is transmitted to people through the bite of an infected blacklegged tick, and it’s usually treatable with antibiotics.
Lyme disease can cause a range of symptoms, and they vary depending on when the disease is caught. According to the CDC, early symptoms (which may manifest between three and 30 days after someone is infected) include:
Muscle and joint aches
Swollen lymph nodes may occur in the absence of rash
A bulls-eye rash (called erythema migrans)
If a person’s Lyme disease goes undetected and untreated, however, their symptoms can progress to severe headaches and nick stiffness, facial palsy, joint pain and swelling, and numbness or tingling in the hands or feet, among other complications.
How common is it for Lyme disease to go undiagnosed?
Schumer didn’t offer up any more details about her symptoms and diagnosis, or why she thought she’s had Lyme disease for years.
But missing a tick bite happens more often than you’d think. “The ticks that transmit Lyme disease are very small and many people don’t notice their bites,” says Richard Watkins, M.D., an infectious disease physician and professor of internal medicine at the Northeast Ohio Medical University. “It is therefore not uncommon to see people with Lyme disease who were infected years earlier.”
Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, agrees. “Some people who have Lyme disease may not have the characteristic bulls-eye rash early on, and may miss the diagnosis,” he says.
However, an accurate diagnosis really depends on your symptoms and your medical provider, says Michael Zimring, M.D., director of the Center for Wilderness & Travel Medicine at Mercy Medical Center. “If someone has typical symptoms and lives in an area where there’s Lyme or have deer around their house, it’s a relatively easy disease to diagnose if you’re familiar with it,” he says. “Some people who are not familiar with Lyme disease will miss the diagnosis.”
That said, it’s not really possible for doctors to tell exactly how long someone has had Lyme disease. “The test would just say it’s positive,” Dr. Adalja says. Many doctors will also test someone for Lyme disease if they have non-specific symptoms, further complicating things. “If the test comes back positive, you need to figure out, ‘Are these symptoms related to Lyme or not?’” Dr. Adalja says.
How is Lyme disease usually treated?
Lyme disease is typically treated with antibiotics, including doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime axetil, the CDC says. However, if someone developed certain neurological or cardiac forms of the disease, they may be treated with IV antibiotics like ceftriaxone or penicillin, the CDC says.
“Oral antibiotics—usually doxycycline—are effective in treating Lyme disease at any stage,” Dr. Watkins says. According to the CDC, most people recover “within a few weeks” of taking the medication. However, a small percentage of people with Lyme disease will have fatigue and muscle aches that last for more than six months in a condition known as Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.
If you’ve been having symptoms of Lyme disease, it’s important to talk to your doctor—whether your symptoms have been going on for days, weeks, or longer—to ensure a proper diagnosis and path to recovery.