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.
Here are the usual symptoms of parasitic infestation:1. Chronic digestive problems
Parasites cause inflammation when they are present in the intestines, damaging the intestinal lining which results in diarrhea. The toxic waste they produce causes gas, bloating, nausea, constipation and burning sensation in the stomach. Fiber-rich and alkaline foods can help you relieve the symptoms, but if they continue, you should consider using a parasite cleanse.
2. Abdominal pain
The parasites that live in the upper small intestinal region cause irritation and inflammation, leading to bloated feeling and pain. Parasites are able to block the passage of waste products to exit the body, leading to pain in the abdomen (the upper part). Such pain is connected to roundworm, fluke, hookworm, or tapeworm intestinal infestations. According to one study from 1986, hookworm infestation is the main cause of abdominal discomfort, especially adults that have recently travelled abroad. Visit a doctor is you have a sudden onset of severe abdominal pain from time to time.
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
These two symptoms are related to intestinal worms which feed off your body’s nutrients. When you’re lacking essential vitamins and minerals, the body becomes weak, leaving you exhausted and depressed at a physical, but also on mental and emotional level. The organs work harder due to the overload of toxic metabolic waste produced by the parasites leading to low energy levels, fatigue and weakness.
5. Change of appetite and weight loss
Increased appetite in the combination with weight loss is notices in cases of tapeworm or pinworm infestation. It occurs because the parasites eat a great amount of the food you eat, making you feel hungry more than the usual. You might feel a strong early morning hunger, and you may not feel saturated or full after eating a meal. Consult a doctor if you experience weight loss with an increased appetite.
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
This unusual symptom occurs overnight because of anxiety and restlessness as well as because of the waste and toxins released by the parasites in the body. A study published by the Dental Research Journal in 2010 revealed the connection between parasitic infestation and bruxism in children, which is why you need to check your kid’s stool in order to make sure that the symptom is not caused by parasites.
8. Anemia or iron deficiency
Roundworm or pinworm infestation leads to anemia as the parasites steal the good vitamins, including iron, leading to iron deficiency. Indian Pediatrics published a study in 2003 where there was a prevalence of intestinal parasites up to 30-50% and anemia from 40-73% among school-going girls (2-4 years old) in Gulbarga, Karnataka. This issue is likely to be more common due to bad hygiene, poor awareness, illiteracy, and other allied factors. There were reports from another study from 2008 published in the Nigerian Journal of Clinical Practice which showed worm infestation and anemia in preschool children of peasant farmers in Calabar, Nigeria. Anemia severely affects the development and growth of the children. There is slow growth and weight loss in children who are infested with parasites, thus if in case you notice this sign, you should immediately visit a doctor.
9. Skin issues
Inflammation caused by parasites can result in skin rashes, hives, eczema and other allergies. The toxic waste released by parasites increases the levels of eosinophil in the blood, resulting in ulcers, lesions, swelling and sores. Parasites can also cause dry skin, brittle hair and hair loss.
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. Also, the toxins released by the parasites can cause an inflammatory response within the body. Plus, pain can be experienced as a result of the immune system’s response to the parasites. If you are not able to zero down the cause behind sudden pain in the muscles, joints or any other part of the body and the pain is getting worse day by day, consult a doctor.