Parasites in Humans Symptoms

This page contains a selection of tables that cross reference symptoms with parasite infections.

When we talk about parasite symptoms it is important to think about the concept of diagnosis. In medical terms, the health condition caused by parasites is referred to as an infection or disease. These infections are given scientific names and then the symptoms of each are elucidated. In other words, you may be infested with parasites but you may not have an associated infection and thus no symptoms.

Parasites can inhabit your body for years with no apparent symptoms. Since the presence of parasites can affect your absorption of nutrients, this can have a detrimental effect over time, especially for the healthy growth of children.

Symptoms Vary and Can Be Confused with Other Health Conditions

The symptoms of parasitic infections vary. And some infections regardless of the parasitic cause have very similar symptoms. Or the symptoms are similar to other health conditions. Since parasite diagnostic procedures are not always reliable, this makes the diagnosis of a parasite-related infection rather complicated. As with many health conditions it can be a process of elimination. Is it a parasite? Or is it irritable bowel syndrome? Dr Marcelle Pick of Portland Maine reports that as many as 40% of her patients presenting with symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome actually have intestinal parasites.

Typically a stool examination is undertaken to diagnose parasitic worms. Sometimes these parasites are not discovered until an endoscopic (internal) examination of the stomach or colon occurs. In other parasite cases, such as malaria or dengue fever, a blood test is required.

Are You in the Geographic Spread of a Parasite?

When considering the possibility of a parasite related infection, it is important to take into account the geographic reach of a parasite. Some parasites are limited to certain locations. Do you live in that area? Or have you recently traveled there? So when confronted with a set of sypmtoms that could be parasite related you may be able to eliminate certain possibilities by considering the geographic reach. On the other hand, with the today's travel patterns and the frequency of the global movement of people and food products, some parasites that were previously restricted to a specific geographic location are now more widespread.

Symptoms for Common Roundworm Infections

The following table lists some of the most common parasitic worms. These are all a type of roundworm and they find their way from soil into the human body either through the skin (the hookworm) or transferred to the mouth in some way and often from pets. With the exception of the trichinella roundworm, all of these worms end up in the intestine. Trichinella spends time in the intestine but ultimately ends up in your muscles.

Sometimes there are no symptoms of a parasitic worm infestation. It depends on the sensitivity of the host and the extent of the infestation. Sometimes as the parasite migrates from one part of the body to another a set of sypmtoms will appear and then disappear.

Helmitic Parasites
(Worms)
  • Parasite
    Name
  • Pinworm
  • Trichinella
    spiralis
  • Hookworm
  • Round
    (Ascaris
    lubricoides)
  • Toxocara
  • Whipworm
  • Infection
    Name
  • Enterobiasis
  • Trichinosis
  • Ancylo-
    stomiasis
  • Ascariasis
  • Toxocariasis
  • Trichuriasis
  • Geography
  • World Wide
  • World Wide
  • Tropics
    SE USA
  • World Wide
  • World Wide
  • World Wide
  • Abdominal
    cramps
    (vague)
  •  
  •  

  • intermittent
  • Abdominal
    Intestinal
    cramps
    (severe)
  •  
  •  

  • Note 1
  •  
  •  
  • Anemia
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Colic
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Cough
    Wheezing
  •  
  •  
  •  

  • Note 2
  •  
  • Diarrhea
  •  

  • sometimes
  •  
  •  

  • chronic
  • Eyes
  •  

  • Note 3
  •  
  •  

  • Note 4
  •  
  • Fever
  •  
  •  

  • Note 2
  •  
  • Intestinal
    Bleeding
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Itching
    (anal or
    vaginal)
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Itchy Feet
    (the soles)
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Irritability
    or
    listlessness
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Muscle or
    joint
    pain
  •  

  • Note 5
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Nausea
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Neuro
    (e.g. headaches)
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Pneumonia
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

  • recurring
  •  
  • Rectum
    protrudes
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

  • sometimes
  • Restlessness
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Skin rash
  •  

  • not itchy
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Sleep
    Disturbed
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Stools
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

  • bloody
  • Weight Loss
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • Vomiting
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  
  • High White
    Blood Cells
  •  
  •  
  •  
  •  

  • Note 6
  •  

Worm Notes

  1. Severe cramps caused when the infestation of worms is so large it causes an intestinal blockage. More likely to occur in children.
  2. Cough, wheezing, fever occurs when the larvae move through the lungs to the bronchial so as to be swallowed.
  3. Upper eyelids may swell. Whites of eye may be red, pain in the eyes, sensitivity to bright light.
  4. Inflammation and loss of vision occurs when larvae infects the eyes.
  5. Affects muscles used to breathe, speak, chew and swallow.
  6. A type of white blood cells called Eosinophils.

Symptoms for Common Protozoan Parasites

The following table lists some of the more common single celled parasites. The mode of infection for these bugs vary. As with worms, most find their way into your body through the mouth and often through contaminated food and water. Plasmodium, the parasite that causes Malaria is the exception. This parasite is strictly transmitted through mosquito bites.

As with parasitic worms there are often no symptoms of these parasitic infestation. While some are typically intestinal infections they may migrate to other parts of the body and still others infect the blood.

Protozoans
(Single Celled Parasites)
  • Parasite
    Name
  • Babesia
  • Crypto
    -sporidium
    parvum
  • Entamoeba
    histolytica
  • Giardia lamblia
  • Plasmodium
  • Toxoplasma
    gondii
  • Infection
    Name
  • Babesiosis
    Note 6
  • Crypto
    -sporidios
  • Amebiasis
  • Giardiasis
  • Malaria
    Note 10
  • Toxoplasmosis
    Note 12
  • Geography
  • World Wide
  • World Wide
  • World Wide
  • World Wide
  • Tropical Areas
  • World Wide
  • Abdominal
    Pain

  • cramps

  • intermittent
    Note 1

  • cramps
  • Appetite
  • poor
  • Anemia

  • Note 2
  • Blood Sugar
  • drops
    Note 11
  • Body Aches
  • Diarrhea

  • watery
  • Delirium
    Confusion

  • falciparum
  • Fatigue
    Malaise
  • Fever

  • Note 2

  • Note 9

  • Low
    Intermittent
  • Flatulence
  • Headache
  • Ill Feeling

  • vague
  • Intestinal
    Block

  • Note 3
  • Intestinal
    Ulcer
  • Liver
  • abcess
    Note 2, 7
  • Lymph Nodes
  • swollen
  • Nausea
  • Skin Infection

  • Note 4
  • Spleen
  • enlarges
  • Stool
  • Note 5
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Loss

  • emaciation
    Note 2

  • Note 8
  • Weakness

Notes for Singled Celled Parasites

  1. In severe cases, there is severe pain, the abdomen is tender to the touch; peritonitis can occur.
  2. In severe cases, when infection is chronic.
  3. In severe cases, the intestine can be blocked by a large lump.
  4. Occasionally skin becomes infected around buttocks, genitals or abdominal surgical wounds.
  5. In severe cases blood and/or mucus appears in the stool.
  6. An infection in red blood cells. Transmitted by deer ticks. Occurs rarely but a person without a spleen can be severely affected, death can occur. A healthy person usually recovers quickly and without treatment.
  7. Symptoms of liver abcess include fever, chills, weakness, weight loss, discomfort around location of the liver.
  8. Prolonged diarrhea (for weeks) can result in weight loss due to loss of nutrients.
  9. High fever (104) accompanied by sudden chills. Fever comes and goes periodically: every 48 or 72 hours depending on type of malaria. Drop in fever is followed by heavy sweats.
  10. Symptoms of Malaria may not appear for as much as 12 months after infection. There are different forms of malaria (plasmodium): vivax, ovale, falciparum, malariae. Falciparum is the most dangerous, damaging to organs and can result in death. It is also the most drug resistant form of malaria.
  11. Drop in blood sugar occurs with Plasmodium falciparum infection.
  12. Babies born with Toxoplamosis suffer blindness, enlarged liver and spleen, jaundice, bruising, seizures, large/small head, mental retardation. Babies contract the disease when the Mother contracts the parasite during pregnancy. If the Mother contracts the parasite before pregnancy, it typically is not passed on to the child.

References

A variety of references have been used to compile the symptoms that appear on this page. In particular, but not exclusively, the 2nd Home Edition of the Merck Manual has been used.
A version of the Merck Manual is found online.

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