Roundworm is a parasitic infection that is contagious and requires immediate treatment. The parasite mostly lives in the gastrointestinal tract and is at first unnoticeable, but as the infection continues, symptoms cause discomfort and potentially more serious issues. Roundworms are easily treated by a medical professional. Roundworm can spread due to several factors including poor hygiene and sanitation in a localized area.
Roundworm infections mostly occur in tropical and subtropical climates and where sanitation and hygiene practices are inadequate. According to the Mayo Clinic, children under the age of 10 are more susceptible to infection because they are more exposed to dirt during outdoor play. Parasitic contagion occurs when an individual ingests the eggs in fruit or when one comes into physical contact with infested dirt or stool. There are a variety of roundworms, each with unique symptoms and treatments.
Ascariasis starts with contact and ingestion of roundworm larvae. This kind of parasite is the most common cause of roundworm infection in the world. Most infections are mild, but there are cases where the infestation and symptoms are severe. The larvae continue to grow in the small intestine and may travel through the bloodstream or lymphatic system, proceeding to the lungs. Symptoms are comparable to asthma or pneumonia and include coughing, wheezing, and trouble breathing.
Hookworm is the second most prevalent infestation of parasites worldwide and can spread between animals and people. The larvae develop in dirt and feces and once inside the body, mature in the small intestine. They attach to the intestinal wall, causing loss of blood. The adult worms can live in a human for as little as one or two years or several. Hookworm infection leads to iron deficiency anemia, cardiac complications, gastrointestinal upset, and metabolic symptoms. Larvae may also reach the bowel lumen causing eosinophilic enteritis. In animals, hookworm species can cause ground itch, a zoonotic infection.
Pinworms or threadworms are parasites that exist in the human colon and rectum. Infection of pinworms occurs worldwide and affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds; they are the most common type of roundworm diagnosed in the United States. Children, people living in institutions, and people near an infected individual are most likely to get pinworm infestations. Contamination occurs via anus to mouth contact, from dirty hands or contaminated clothes, food, and other surfaces. A pinworm infection causes itching around the anus; female pinworms lay eggs in the skin surrounding the anus after they have passed through the intestine. Symptoms are mild if they are detected at all.
A strongyloidiasis infection of parasites ranges in severity and may be acute or chronic; it can lead to fatal hyperinfection syndrome if left untreated. An erythematous rash at the entry site is a common first symptom of acute strongyloidiasis. A cough may develop as the larvae move through the lungs, eventually reaching the trachea. Symptoms also include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, and anorexia. Chronic strongyloidiasis has presents symptoms most commonly associated with gastrointestinal and cutaneous manifestations, such as heartburn, diarrhea, and constipation. Hyperinfection symptoms include intestinal obstruction, wheezing, respiratory complications, abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea. Left untreated, 90% of persons with a hyperinfection face death.
Trichinosis is an easily treatable roundworm infection that mostly occurs in rural areas. Parasitic infection of trichinosis develops due to consumption of undercooked meat contaminated with Trichinella larvae. It takes one or two days after infection for symptoms to manifest in the abdominal region. Larvae penetrate the small intestine, eventually growing into worms that mate and reproduce. Symptoms may progress from diarrhea, nausea, and pain to fever, pink eye, and swelling of the face.
Contact with feces or ingestion of unwashed, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables can lead to whipworm infection. These parasites get their name from their whip-like form. The larvae live in the small intestine, causing symptoms such as painful defecation with the presence of mucus, water, and blood. When children are infected, they may experience cognitive impairment and growth retardation.
Management of roundworm infections includes preventative measures in countries where infection rates are high. Treatments do not require a test or a positive diagnosis. Medical professionals usually diagnose parasitic infections by examining stool and blood samples. Symptoms may also indicate roundworm infections, and additional tools such as an x-ray are helpful in confirming a diagnosis.
Doctors treat roundworm parasitic infections with various medications depending on the age of the infected individual, generally one of three medications. These treatments block the roundworms' access to glucose, causing them to lose their energy source. Side effects from these medicines include diarrhea, nausea, colic in babies, flatulence, and skin rash.
Some easily implemented precautions can prevent roundworm infections. Regular hand-washing will get rid of any larvae awaiting the chance to contaminate. People should wash after touching dirt, changing diapers, and using the toilet. Proper cleaning of fruits and vegetables prevents roundworms from being ingested. When traveling to foreign countries with high rates of roundworm infections, take precautions such as drinking bottled water, washing your hands frequently, and avoiding raw foods.
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