WORMS IN THE INTESTINES: HEALTH EFFECTS
Worms in the intestines lead to serious health challenges because all of your systems may be affected. This post is a continuation of intestinal worms and how they affect your health where I started to show you how these parasites may harm your health. Here you will learn more about worms that live inside your intestines and how you can avoid them.
Hookworm lives in your small intestines. The two species of hookworm that affect humans are Ancylostoma duodenale and Necator americanus. The first type (A. duodenale) is found in Europe, North Africa and Northern Asia. And the second specie of hookworm (N.americanus) is mostly found in the western countries and in Africa.
Children and farmers are the most affected by hookworm. When you use human faeces as fertilizer in your farms your chances of getting infected by hookworm are high.
Life Cycle of Hookworm: adult hookworms may live for approximately 6 – 8 years in your intestines. The adult worm could reach up to 1 centimetre long. It attaches to the walls of your small intestines where it causes harm to you by sucking your blood. This leads to anaemia (low blood in your body) and low levels of protein.
The adult worm produces thousands of eggs every day which then pass out of your body through faeces. Within a week the eggs develop in soil and become tiny worms (larvae) that can pierce your intact skin. After penetrating your skin the tiny worms are taken by the blood flow to your lungs. The worms then crawl up your respiratory system to reach your throat where you swallow them down into your intestines. They then get attached to the walls of your small intestines and continue to grow until they reach adulthood. Once they become adults they start producing eggs. It takes approximately 6 – 8 weeks from the time the tiny worm penetrates your skin to the time it starts producing eggs.
Symptoms of Hookworm Infection:
you may not suffer from any symptoms following hookworm infection. However itching at the area of skin where the worm enters your body may frequently be the early symptom. The worm may also be seen moving under your skin as it migrates to your lungs. You may also experience some cough and chest pain while the worm is in your lungs. By the time reaches your intestines the warm may causes you pain in the upper part of your belly. The character of this abdominal pain is that it becomes worse after eating food. You may also develop diarrhoea (frequent stools) on some occasions. The most serious health problem that can occur when the worms live inside your intestines for a long time is anaemia. This is because you continuously lose iron until the levels of iron in your body becomes low. Iron is an important substance that is needed for production of blood in your body. Deficiency of iron occurs due to continuous sucking of your blood by the hookworms. You may then become weak and have difficulty in breathing due to the anaemia.
Whipworm is also known as Trichuris trichiura. It is a health problem found all over the world but especially in those countries that are very hot and humid. Children in poor countries are the most affected by whipworm.
Whipworm lives in your large intestines (colon). The adult female worm lays thousands of eggs daily which then pass out of your body through faeces. The eggs mature in the soil then contaminate your food to find their way back into your body. They hatch inside your small intestines to release tiny worms that grow then migrate into your large intestines. It takes up to three months from eating the eggs to their development into adult worms.
Symptoms of Whipworm Infection: you may develop abdominal pain, bloody diarrhoea, body weakness and anaemia due to whipworm infection. If your child is infected they may become malnourished. Also your child may suffer from diarrhoea and rectal prolapse (intestine slips out through the anus).
Pinworm also called Enterobius vermicularis resembles a pin. It is a common infection in many countries especially among children. It is approximately 1 centimetre long and lives in your large intestine. Every night the pregnant female goes to an area near the anus to deposit its eggs. The eggs develop within a few hours and become ready to infect you. The movement of the adult worm cause itching around your anus. Scratching the itchy area helps in spreading the infection. This is because you end up carrying the eggs in your fingers or under your nails. You then place it directly onto your mouth or on someone else’s mouth or hands. This happens especially when you don’t take care to wash your hands before eating.
Symptoms of Pinworm Infection:
The most important symptom of pinworm infection is itching around the anus which is worse at night. Scratching may cause injury to the skin in the area leading to bacterial infection and pus around the area. You may also develop pain in the abdomen and loss of weight. If you are a female the worm may sometimes enters your genital tract to cause disease.
Small Roundworm Infection
Small roundworm also known as Strongyloides stercoralis is one of the most dangerous intestinal worms that affect humans. This worm could lead to your death due to heavy infection because it can automatically re-infect you again and again. Other worms need soil to develop their eggs before they can infect you. But small roundworm does not soil to develop its eggs. It hatches its eggs in your intestines to release tiny worms that become mature and infect you again.
- stercoralis are found commonly in sub Saharan Africa, South East Asia and Brazil.
The worm can live freely in the soil or as a parasite in your intestines. Its eggs hatch in the intestines to release immature larvae which may pass out of your body through faeces. The larvae become mature in the soil then pierce your skin to enter your body. It then travels to your lungs through blood flow then crawl up to your throat. You then swallow it down into your intestines where it grows to adult worm. The adult female worm release eggs which hatch in your intestines to become immature larvae. These larvae may pass out of your body or develop into mature larvae inside you. The mature larvae in your intestine then directly infect you. This is why you may continue to suffer Strongyloides infection for decades without getting into contact with the worm from outside.
Symptoms of Strongyloides infection may include itchy skin (especially around the wrist and buttocks) and abdominal pain (worse after meals). You may also have nausea, diarrhoea and bloody faeces. Others include loss of weight and blockage of small intestines when the number of worms is large.
How to Confirm That You Have Worms In The Intestines
Laboratory analysis of your faeces will show that eggs of worms are present within the faeces. However in pinworm infection your doctor may have to get the eggs from your anus through some simple process. The sample will then be sent to the laboratory for examination. Your blood will also be taken for analysis. Some substance detected in your blood indirectly shows that you have worms living in your body.
Treatment of Worms In The Intestines
Medical treatment is available and consists of drugs taken by mouth once or repeated over some days. Your doctor will determine which drug is best suited for your condition.
How to Prevent Worms In The Intestines
Prevention of intestinal worm infection involves the following:
- Improve environmental sanitation to prevent contamination of food and drinking water with eggs of worms. This will also prevent contact with the tiny worms that pierce your skin to enter your body.
- Improve personal hygiene to prevent contamination of your food by yourself. Wash hands frequently especially after visiting the bathroom.
- Avoid using human faeces as fertilizer in your farms to prevent foods contamination with eggs of worms or direct contact with the larvae.
- Wash your vegetables properly before eating it.
- If you have been confirmed to have intestinal worms your household members should also be treated. This will eliminate the worms from individuals who have the worms in their bodies but are not showing any signs. Also it will protect you from getting re-infected after treatment because there is no source of spread.
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Papadakis, M. A. & McPhee, S. J. (2017). Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment. 53. McGraw –Hill. USA
Kasper, D. L. et al. eds. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine. 19th ed. McGraw Hill. USA.
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