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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Notes for Singled Celled Parasites
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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