Just imagining a parasite in the body is a scary thing, but many people have parasites and are not even aware of it.
Parasites are microorganisms that live off other organisms. Anyone can get a parasitic infestation. It is more common than you may think.
Some parasites can cause disease directly, while others cause disease by the toxins that they produce. There are several types of parasites that live in and feed off your body. Some survive on the food you consume, some feed on red blood cells and some even lay eggs inside your body.
Some of the common parasites that can infest your body are pinworms, lambia, hookworms, tapeworms, trichinella, and dientamoeba fragilis.
They normally enter the body through the skin or mouth. A person can get a parasite infestation due to several reasons, including exposure to areas having parasites, traveling to places that have parasite infestations, intake of contaminated water or food, poor sanitation, poor hygiene and a weak immune system.
Close contact with pets can also lead to a parasite infestation.
As parasites are of different forms, shapes and sizes, they cause a very wide range of signs and symptoms.
1. Chronic Digestive Issues
Intestinal parasite infestation can cause inflammation and destroy the intestinal lining of the gut, leading to chronic diarrhea.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Biology, Agriculture and Healthcare emphasizes routine intestinal parasite screening to increase the diagnostic rate of parasitic diarrhea and improve the treatment and prevention strategies of diarrhea in children with severe acute malnutrition.
Even the toxic waste produced by the parasites can cause chronic constipation, gas, bloating, nausea and burning sensations in the stomach.
If you are eating high fiber and highly alkaline foods on a daily basis and still experience diarrhea or other digestive issues, consider a parasite cleanse.
2. Abdominal Pain
Another stomach problem caused by parasites is abdominal pain. Parasites residing in the upper small intestinal region cause inflammation and irritation in this area. This leads to a bloated feeling and pain in the abdomen.
Plus, parasites can even block the passage of waste products exiting the body, which can lead to pain in the upper abdominal region.
Abdominal pain is mainly associated with roundworm, fluke, hookworm or tapeworm intestinal infestations. A 1986 study published in the Singapore Medical Journal found that hookworm infestation is a key cause of abdominal discomfort, especially among adults who recently traveled abroad.
If you have sudden onset of severe abdominal pain from time to time, get yourself checked by a doctor.
3. Anal Itching
Itching around the anus is another sign of a parasite infection. Especially those suffering from pinworms often complain of anal itching or discomfort. Itching around the anus occurs frequently at night when the female pinworms lay their eggs.
The itching is caused by the female pinworms that migrate to lay eggs around the anus. Both the migrating female pinworms as well as the clumps of eggs are irritating and cause itching, crawling sensations or even acute pain.
If the infected person scratches the area, the skin may break down and increase the risk of a secondary bacterial infection. As itching usually occurs at night, it leads to sleep disturbances and restlessness.
If you have itching around the anus during the night for more than two weeks and without any sign of rashes, consult your doctor.
4. Fatigue and Weakness
Fatigue may also be a symptom of a parasite infestation. This is mainly associated with intestinal worms that deplete the body of vital nutrients by feeding on the food you eat.
Malabsorption of vitamins, minerals, fats and carbohydrates can make the body weak, leaving you exhausted, depressed and with a feeling of general apathy. It can lead to exhaustion at mental, physical and emotional levels.
Plus, the toxic metabolic waste overload produced by the parasites causes the organs to work even harder to eliminate these waste products. This also leads to fatigue, low energy, lethargy and excessive weakness.
If you have unrelenting fatigue even after eating and sleeping properly, consult a doctor to find out the cause.
5. Change in Appetite & Weight Loss
If you notice a sudden change in your appetite, particularly an increase in appetite, it may be due to the presence of parasites in your body.
In fact, an increased appetite combined with weight loss is often noticed in cases of tapeworm or pinworm infestation.
This happens as the parasites consume a good amount of the food eaten by the infected person, thus making the person hungry more often than usual.
Also, the infected person may notice a strong early morning hunger and may never feel satisfied or full after eating a meal.
If you experience weight loss with an increase in appetite, consult your doctor.
6. Mental Distress
A parasite infestation can even cause mood swings, depression, anxiety and also visual hallucinations. Often, these symptoms are paired with digestive issues.
The intestine contains both neurons and neurotransmitters (specifically serotonin), which are important for a healthy enteric nervous system.
Toxic metabolic waste produced by parasites residing in the intestine can attack neurons and neurotransmitters, causing nervousness, restlessness, mood swings and even depression.
Also, scientists believe that inflammation in the intestine can lead to inflammation in the brain and vice versa.
If you are suddenly having mood swings or feeling depressed, consult your doctor to rule out the possibility of a parasite infestation.
7. Teeth Grinding
If you grind your teeth in your sleep, one possible cause is a parasite infestation. Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, may occur while sleeping due to anxiety and restlessness caused by waste and toxins released by the parasites in the body.
A 2010 study published in Dental Research Journal confirmed the correlation between intestinal parasitic infections and bruxism among small children.
As pathogenic parasites serve as the cause of bruxism among children, if you notice any such symptoms in your children, get their stool examined.
8. Iron-Deficiency Anemia
Infestations by intestinal roundworms or pinworms can lead to iron deficiency in the body and ultimately cause anemia.
The parasites steal the good vitamins, including iron, from the food the person eats, leading to an iron deficiency.
A 2003 study published in Indian Pediatrics found a prevalence of intestinal parasitism up to 30 to 50 percent and anemia from 40 to 73 percent among school-going girls (2 to 4 years of age) at Gulbarga, Karnataka.
The study notes that the problem is likely to be more common because of bad hygiene, poor awareness, illiteracy, poverty and a variety of allied factors.
Another 2008 study published in the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice reports worm infestation and anemia among preschool children of peasant farmers in Calabar, Nigeria.
Severe anemia ultimately affects a child’s growth and development. In fact, slow growth and weight loss are common in children infested with parasites. If you notice signs of slow growth in your child, consult your doctor.
9. Skin Problems
Parasites that invade the intestinal tract cause inflammation in the body, which in turn causes several skin problems. Such skin problems include rashes, hives, eczema and other forms of skin allergies.
Also, the toxins and waste products released by the parasites cause an increase in the eosinophils level in your blood. This can lead to sores, swellings, lesions and ulcers.
Not just skin, parasites can even lead to dry hair, brittle hair and hair loss.
Instead of treating skin irritations or unexplained rashes, hives, rosacea or eczema on your own, consult your doctor for proper diagnosis of the problem.
10. Muscle and Joint Pain
Certain parasites can invade the soft tissue in the joints and muscles, where they become enclosed in a cyst-like manner. This results in irritation and pain, which is often mistaken for arthritis.