What are pinworms ?
These are small parasites that infest human intestines. They get into the human body in the form of eggs, which people get after touching something that have their eggs and then placing the infected finger into the mouth. People infected with this kind of intestinal parasite will have a very itchy bottom. The itchiness is so intense in some people that it could disrupt sleep, diet and emotional well-being.
Affected individuals should seek treatment for pinworms even if this condition does not lead to serious health problems. The treatment is aimed at killing the adult worms to prevent them from hatching more eggs and spreading the infection to other people. It would be best for the affected individuals and their families to incorporate proper hygiene to keep the intestinal infection away.
What happens during Pinworms infestation?
Pinworm infestation starts when the worm’s eggs enter the body through the mouth. Once the eggs are in the body, they will reside in the small intestine and grow into worms. Afterwards, they will move to the large intestine to get the nourishment they need to become adult worms. The female worm will then start to crawl downwards to the rectum to lay eggs during nighttime. Its wiggling motion is the reason why sufferers feel itchiness in their anus.
It would take around a month or two before the affected individual realize the infestation. On the other hand, the worm’s eggs can live outside the body up to 3 weeks, while the anus provides the perfect environment for them to survive.
Pinworms in Humans
This intestinal infestation is highly contagious and people get it in different ways, such as:
- Touching objects contaminated with pinworm eggs
Pinworm eggs can live up to 3 weeks in any surface. Touching these surfaces and objects and putting the contaminated hand into the mouth triggers the start of pinworm infestation. These eggs can be found in bed linens, toilets, towels, clothes, bathroom fixtures, faucets, toys, school desks, sandboxes and many more.
- Scratching the bottom and putting the hands into the mouth
When the female worm deposits its eggs into the anal area, it causes intense itching which can move one to scratch this area. Scratching this area gives way for the eggs to get stuck into the fingernails and get into the body if the affected individual puts his/her contaminated finger into the mouth.
- Eating foods with pinworm eggs
People can get the annoying intestinal infestation by consuming foods prepared under unhygienic conditions. Pinworm eggs can get into the surfaces of kitchen counters, utensils and drinking glasses.
- Inhaling airborne pinworm eggs
Intestinal infestation could also be a result of inhaling airborne pinworm eggs, although this rarely happens.
How do you get pinworms ?
The effect of pinworm infestation differs in each person. However, all sufferers experience an itchy anal area which tends to get worse at nighttime when the female worm lays its eggs. Some people may not exhibit symptoms other than an itchy bottom, but others may have other unpleasant symptoms which may include:
- Itchy genital area
- Worms in the bowel or underwear
- Burning sensation when urinating
The intestinal infestation causes restlessness and insomnia. It is also responsible for irritability in children at night. Pinworm infestation in itself is not really life threatening, but it may trigger other health problems like UTI or urinary tract infection as well as vaginitis and endometriosis.
Though pinworm infection most affects children below 12 years of age, even adults can be affected. Infected children usually transmit these parasites of the intestines to adults in the family. Since the female pinworm deposits eggs at night around the anal region, there can be rectal itching in adults. In case, the itching is severe, there can be secondary bacterial infection due to the skin breaking down. Having an upset stomach, vaginal itching and feeling irritated is seen in adult women with pinworm infection.
Diagnosis of Pinworms
The doctor will conduct several tests to confirm the presence of pinworms. He or she will check the medical history of the patient, and conduct a physical examination of the anal area to check for irritation and redness. After these, the doctor may perform any of the following tests:
- Cellophane test
This test which is often done at home, involves putting scotch tape onto the patient’s anus before getting out of bed in the morning. The scotch tape will then be viewed for pinworm eggs under the microscope. This is often done in three consecutive days.
- Stool sample
Fecalysis may also help in diagnosing the intestinal infestation but is rarely employed by healthcare professionals due to the fact that worms don’t deposit their eggs on the rectum.
Colonoscopy is only considered when the condition is not resolved with the recommended treatment.
Patients should expect to undergo additional tests if the doctor suspects other health complications.
How to get rid of Pinworms
Pinworm infestation is curable and treatment may involve taking medications to kill adult worms. This could be prescribed by the doctor or bought through the local pharmacy. The doctor may prescribe medicines like mebendazole (Vermox) and albendazole (Albenza) which can be quite effective in getting rid of pinworms but one may have to take a second dose after a gap of two weeks because the eggs are known to survive for a few weeks.
Since eggs do not get killed with medicines, practicing proper hygiene, such as regular hand washing, keeping the fingernails short, cleaning the toilet daily and washing beddings every two weeks, is the finest way to control and prevent the infestation. Doctors may also prescribe water tap enema to complete get rid of pinworms.
The couple of pictures here are pinworms detected in a colonoscopy procedure.