All You Need to Know About Parasites

Everyone has parasites as it is impossible to not come in contact with them. It is present everywhere from food to carpets. Most parasites may not have a negative effect though they always exist in healthy individuals. But there are some intestinal parasites that can cause health issues from digestive issues to skin issues and more. The major challenge in dealing with parasitic infections is they do not show up in standard testing. Hence it is essential to know the signs and symptoms of parasites to take corrective measures and proper treatment.

What are Parasites?

Parasites are organisms that feed on other organisms. They are tiny microscopic organisms that live on or in the host and feeds at their expense taking away their nutrition in the process. These are 3 categories of parasites:

  • Protozoa: These are tiny, single-celled organisms that reside in the blood, tissues or intestine.
  • Helminth: Worms like tapeworms and roundworms belong to this category. They are also tiny and have thorny heads.
  • Ectoparasites: These burrows or attach to the skin. Ticks, lice, mites, and fleas are classified as ectoparasites.

Signs of having a Parasite

Parasites can be harmful, causing diseases but if caught early the infections can be treated using medications. Here are some signs of parasitic attack on your body.

Losing Weight

Many diseases can lead to unexplained loss of weight. But losing weight without you intending it or doing something about it, is one of the primary symptoms of having parasites. Since these parasites are freeloaders they feed on your nutrition leaving you feeling week. Apart from the rapid weight loss, it can also cause a loss of appetite and upset stomach.

Digestive Issues

This is also a symptom that is common across many diseases. Worms like tapeworms and roundworms can lead to many stomach issues including upset bowels. Tapeworm infection can happen when a person consumes contaminated food or water. It can cause stomach upset, weight loss, abdominal pain, and loss of appetite.

Flu-like Symptoms

If you have traveled abroad recently and have flu-like symptoms then it could be malaria. This is a disease caused by a parasite and can result in chills and fever. Other symptoms include muscle and joint aches, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Severe infections can lead to low platelet count, low blood sugar, anemia, spleen enlargement and dysfunction of lungs and kidney.

Giardia Infection

Parasitic hosts find that they are using the toilet for an unusually long time. The infection is not apparent immediately after exposure but it takes about 1 to 3 weeks to manifest. It is the most common symptom and is among the most common parasitic disease found in the people living in the US. It can be got by drinking contaminated water or eating raw food that contains these parasites. This can spread by touching the surfaces contaminated with Giardia. The other symptoms of this disease are smelly, watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, gas, and dehydration.

Breathing Issues

People who have trouble breathing may not associate the symptom to a parasitic one and thus is one of the lesser-known signs of infection. The parasites can thrive in any organ and do not restrict themselves to the intestines. It can reside even in the lungs and cause respiratory issues such as shortness of breath and coughing. Only certain parasites can cause these lung symptoms.

No Symptoms

These are a few infections that have no symptoms at all. If you have traveled abroad or have reasons to believe that you may have been infected then you should see a doctor as soon as possible. Check out from this post, regarding the different types, symptoms, and treatments for different infections.  Most of the infections are not caught by a simple blood test, your doctor may ask you to take a blood smear test to find them.

Brain Infections

Some parasites can also cause brain infections though they are very rare. Neurocysticercosis is one such brain infection that is caused by eating contaminated food which has tapeworm eggs. The eggs hatch into larvae in the stomach when you consume contaminated pork or other raw food. This larva enters the bloodstream and spreads to all parts of the body including the spinal cord and brain. These larvae form cysts and cause symptoms like inflammation, swelling, headaches, seizures or mental impairment if not treated early.

Unusual Vaginal Discharge

Among the signs and symptoms of parasitic infections, unusual vaginal discharge can be one of then. It is caused due to a parasite called Trichomonas Vaginalis which is a common STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease). The other symptoms include a change in the color and thickness of the discharge and have a bad odor. It can also cause itching or soreness in the genital area and pain during urination.

Itchy Rashes

The presence of hookworms in the body can lead to itchy rashes. The eggs of these parasites are found in the human feces and enter the body when in contact with contaminated soil. It usually happens when people walk barefoot or do not wash hands properly after using the toilet. The itchy rash is because of the larvae migrating in the body and it is the response of the immunity against it.

Eye Problems

This is caused due to eating foods that have parasites. The infection is termed as toxoplasmosis and the symptoms include blurred vision, sensitivity to light, eye pain and blindness due to damage to the retina. Toxoplasmosis is common in the United States and most people never experience symptoms. If you are immunocompromised or pregnant and have eye pain, it can be due to parasitic infections.

Inflammation of Skin on Fingers

Scabies is a common parasite that is found worldwide and spreads due to contact with an infected person. These live in the web of the fingers and can cause an itch due to the immune system’s response. The skin also turns red or is cracked or inflamed if you have this infection.

Parasites infections are scary but they can happen to anyone. If diagnosed early they can be treated with medications. But if left untreated it uses your nutrition to thrive and can lead to serious complications as they spread to other organs and infect them too. It can also cause dehydration and death if not treated in a timely fashion.