In the past, many people believed that intestinal parasites were only found in people living in underdeveloped nations. But it is true that anyone can have these parasites, regardless of their socioeconomic status. So, how do you know if you have parasites? In this article, you will learn about the signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites.
What Is an Intestinal Parasite Infection?
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Intestinal parasite infection is a type of infection caused by intestinal parasites. Intestinal parasites are organisms living inside the intestines of other creatures (hosts) for survival. In some cases, the parasites living in your intestines won’t affect you in any noticeable way. But others will attack your internal systems, causing a parasitic infection.
Intestinal parasites normally infect your gastro-intestinal tract, surviving on what you eat. Most of these parasites can live anywhere in your body but they find your intestinal wall more favorable because of the constant supply of food and water. Also, most intestinal parasites find their way into your body through your mouth. So they naturally end up settling in your gastro-intestinal tract.
Exposure to intestinal parasites usually occurs when you ingest undercooked food (especially meat, raw vegetables, nuts, and fruits), drink infected water and beverages, or through fecal-oral transmission and skin absorption.
How Do You Know If You Have Parasites? Symptoms
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Intestinal parasites are known to cause a variety of illnesses, some of which can be fatal if not treated as soon as possible. Some of the common intestinal parasites that cause illnesses in the United States include Enterobius vermicularis, Giardia lamblia, Necator americanus, Entamoeba histolytica, and Ancylostoma duodenale.
You are at high risk of getting these intestinal parasites if you live in or visit an area known to be infested with parasites, travel abroad, lack proper hygiene and sanitation, have a weak immune system, visit institutional care centers, or are infected with HIV/AIDS. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of intestinal parasites:
• Abdominal pain
• Gas or bloating
• Nausea or vomiting
• Dysentery (loose stool with blood and mucus)
• Feeling tired
• Rash or itching around your rectum or vulva
• Stomach pain or tenderness
• Weight loss
• Presence of worms in your stool
While most of these symptoms are directly associated with the presence of intestinal parasites, sometimes they can be caused by other abdominal complications. Therefore, the surest way to know if you have intestinal parasites is to go for a medical test.
Before you undergo any tests, your doctor will ask you a few questions just to have an idea of your situation. For instance, they’ll like to know if you’ve recently traveled abroad or to an area known to have parasites.
Your doctor may also want to know if you’ve recently lost weight unexpectedly. Your answers will give the doctor an idea of what you could be dealing with. If they suspect that you have intestinal parasites, they will do one or two tests.
One of the most common tests for intestinal parasites is fecal testing. This test involves the examination of your stool to determine if you have helminths or protozoa. So, your doctor will collect a sample of your stool before you take any antibiotics.
Your stool sample should also be taken before you have any X-ray with barium or anti-diarrhea drugs. Sometimes your doctor may collect several samples of your stool. The other common test is a Scotch Tape test. This test helps to identify pinworms.
A Scotch Tap test involves touching your anus severally with a tape and examining the tape under a microscope. If you have pinworms, there will be eggs on the tape. However, these eggs are only visible under a microscope. Lastly, your doctor may perform an X-ray with barium to identify any serious complications caused by intestinal parasites.
An X-ray with barium is a radiographic examination of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Also referred to as upper and lower GI series, a barium X-ray helps to identify irregularities in your GI tract like tumors, ulcers, and other inflammations, cysts, hernias, and strictures.
Do Parasites Go Away on Their Own?
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Some of the common types of intestinal parasites like tapeworms can go away on their own, especially if your immune system is strong and you eat the right food and live a healthy lifestyle. Nevertheless, some intestinal parasites won’t go away until you take anti-parasitic medication. Therefore, the best thing is to go for a medical checkup to determine the type of intestinal parasites you have.
Once the doctor has confirmed the type of parasites in your intestines, they will advise you on the best course of action. Don’t just sit and wait for the parasites to disappear on their own because you could they could be the kind that causes serious parasitic infections. See your doctor immediately if you notice any of the following signs:
• Blood or mucus in your stool
• Vomiting repeatedly
• Sudden rise in body temperature
• Continuous fatigue and dehydration
Even the types of parasites that go away on their own shouldn’t be left untreated because they can easily spread infections, resulting in sepsis. Commonly confused with blood poisoning, sepsis is a deadly condition that occurs when your body tries to respond to infections.
Millions of people around the world have been killed or disabled by sepsis. The only way you can survive sepsis is if it’s detected and treated as soon as possible.
Any kind of infection in your body, including pneumonia, urinary tract infection, and influenza can lead to sepsis and septic shock. Studies have revealed that one-third of patients with sepsis worldwide don’t make it. And those who survive have to deal with severe effects, such as chronic pain, fatigue, organ dysfunction, amputation, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Treatment for Intestinal Parasites
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There are different treatment options for intestinal parasites that your doctor can recommend based on the type of parasites and symptoms you have. For instance, you may be given oral medication like praziquantel, which helps to paralyze adult tapeworms, forcing them to detach from your gut and become dissolved. The dissolved tapeworms will then come out of your body through the stool.
If you have roundworms, your doctor may recommend mebendazole and albendazole. The symptoms of intestinal parasites should start to improve after a few days of taking your medication.
Apart from drug therapy, your doctor may recommend other complementary treatment options, including nutrition and supplements. For instance, you may be advised to avoid certain foods, such as refined carbohydrates, fruits and fruit juices, dairy products, and sugar. You may also be advised to eat raw garlic, pomegranates, carrots, and pumpkin seeds because they are known to kill parasites.
There are numerous herbs that help to get rid of intestinal parasites, including garlic, barberry, goldenseal, anise, wormwood, curled mint, and black walnut. However, you should be careful with some of these herbs, especially if you are on medication, because their toxic side effects may interfere with your medication.
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