A parasitic infection is caused by a parasite, an organism that lives in or on another organism and depends on it for nourishment. In humans, parasites cause various illnesses ranging from minor to life-threatening. Parasitic infections are prevalent globally with numbers over 3.5 billion people worldwide affected by them.
Parasites can be classified into two main types: protozoa and helminths. Both types of parasites can cause disease in humans.
What Causes Parasitic Infections?
Parasitic infections can be caused by three main types of parasites: protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites.
Protozoa are single-celled organisms that cause a wide range of diseases including malaria, dysentery, and giardiasis.
Helminths are multi-celled organisms that can include worms like hookworm and roundworm.
Ectoparasites such as fleas and ticks, attach to the outside of the body and feed on blood.
Most parasitic infections are transmitted through contact with contaminated food or water, animal feces, or direct contact with an infected person or animal. Insects that carry parasites may also transmit them through bites. People with weakened immune systems due to HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) or AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), organ transplantation, diabetes, cancer, and other conditions are more susceptible to parasitic infections.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Common Parasitic Infections In Humans?
Parasitic infections are caused by parasites, which can be microscopic organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, or worms. These infections can range from mild to severe and affect a person’s skin, digestive system, and other organs.
Following are some common parasitic infections that include:
How Are Parasitic Infections Diagnosed?
A parasitic infection can be hard to diagnose as many of the symptoms can mimic other illnesses. To help make a diagnosis, the doctor will take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam. Depending on the type of parasite that may be causing the infection, the doctor may also order several tests to confirm the diagnosis, including endoscopy or colonoscopy.
How Are Parasitic Infections Treated?
When it comes to treating parasitic infections, there are several options available. Depending on the type of infection, treatment may include medications such as antiparasitic, antifungal, antibiotics, or anthelmintics drugs. The doctor may also suggest lifestyle changes, including good hygiene practices, avoiding contact with others who may be infected, and using insect repellents when necessary.
The type of medication the doctor prescribes will depend on the specific parasite involved. Antiparasitic drugs kill the parasites, antifungal drugs kill the fungi that may cause the infection, antibiotics fight bacteria, and anthelmintics are used to treat worm infections.
In addition to the treatment prescribed by the doctor, a person can also take steps to reduce their risk of contracting a parasitic infection in the first place. This includes washing hands regularly and thoroughly, cooking meat and fish thoroughly before eating them, avoiding contact with soil or sand in areas where parasites may live, wearing protective clothing in areas where insects can transmit parasites, and using insect repellent when necessary.
What Are the Complications Associated With Parasitic Infections?
Parasitic infections can cause various complications. People with weakened immune systems may be more vulnerable to severe symptoms and long-term complications from the infection. Common complications from a parasitic infection include organ damage and anemia.
Parasitic infections can cause a range of uncomfortable symptoms and if left untreated, can lead to serious health complications. If a person suspects of having a parasitic infection, it is important to see the doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Early diagnosis and treatment can help ensure a quick and successful recovery. Treatment will vary depending on the type of parasitic infection they have but may include a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
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