What is Parasite Infection?
Parasites are organisms that live off other organisms, or hosts, to survive. Some parasites do not noticeably affect their hosts. Others grow, reproduce, or invade organ systems that make their hosts sick, resulting in a parasitic infection. You can get them from contaminated food or water, a bug bite, or sexual contact. Some parasitic diseases are easily treated and some are not.
There are three main classes of parasites that can cause an infection in humans:
The symptoms of parasitic infections vary depending on the organism.
Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a parasite that often produces no symptoms. In some cases, it may cause itching, redness, irritation, and an unusual discharge in your genital area.
Giardiasis may cause diarrhea, gas, upset stomach, greasy stools, and dehydration.
Cryptosporidiosis may cause stomach cramps, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, weight loss, and fever.
Toxoplasmosis may cause flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes and muscle aches or pains that can last for over a month.
Parasitic infections can be diagnosed in a number of ways. For example, your doctor might perform or order:
- A blood test
- A fecal exam: a sample of your stool will be collected and checked for parasites and their eggs.
- An endoscopy or colonoscopy - may be ordered if the results of a stool exam are inconclusive. While you are sedated, your doctor will pass a thin flexible tube through your mouth or rectum and into your digestive system to examine your intestinal tract.
- X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or computerized axial tomography (CAT) - are used to check for signs of lesions or injury to your organs caused by parasites.
There are several steps you can take to lower your risk of contracting a parasitic infection:
- Find out which kind are prevalent in your area or in locations you may travel
- Using insect repellant in places where mosquitoes are common
- Practice safe sex, using a condom
- Wash your hands regu