Threadworms, also called pinworms, are a common form of roundworms that can live in the colon or rectum of a human. During the night, matured female threadworms leave the colon through the anus and deposit their eggs on the surrounding skin. Humans can reinfect themselves by scratching and touching their mouth, swallowing the eggs. However, once infection occurs, it is treatable and prevention is possible.
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People can contract threadworms in two different manners. Once threadworms deposit the eggs around the skin of the anus it causes the host to itch, spreading to the host's fingers. From there, threadworms cling to the fingers of infected people and contaminate all objects touched, spreading the eggs. The first way threadworm infection occurs is through contact with someone infected or touching infected objects that may have the eggs on them, then inadvertently digesting the eggs.
Many times the presence of threadworms goes unnoticed due to the lack of symptoms. One of the most common symptoms is itching of the anus, which may sometimes be confused with haemorrhoids or eczema. If observed directly after waking up, the worms or eggs may be visible and should still be on the outside of the anus, or checking the faeces for any small white worms. Other symptoms of a threadworm infection include insomnia, restlessness, abdominal pain or nausea.
Once there is a suspected threadworm infection, diagnosis from a health care specialist is important. After diagnosis, treat threadworms with a prescription or over-the-counter medication, usually containing Albendazole or Pyrantel. The medication is taken twice in 2-week intervals; and during that time reinfection is still possible, so it is important to wash bedding and clothing in hot water, shower in the morning to help remove eggs, and always wash hands to avoid spreading eggs.
Threadworms are not always a result of bad personal hygiene but can be one of the causes for infection. Practicing good personal hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent threadworm infection since hand contact spreads the eggs. Always wash hands thoroughly when touching objects or shaking hands. Also, avoid putting hands or fingers in the mouth unless properly washed. Personal hygiene is important at home through cleaning, washing bedding, and wearing clean undergarments since threadworms can be infective for weeks outside of a host.
Though threadworm infection usually does not become severe, it is important to treat it right when suspected. Large pinworm infection can cause serious problems such as urinary tract infections, peritoneal infection, and weight loss resulting in immune disorders and malnutrition, or a bacterial infection from scratching, which can cause more severe symptoms. Since threadworms are so easily spread and reinfection is common, seek treatment promptly.
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