Human liver and lung flukes diseases are common in certain areas of Europe and Asia and infect over 17 million people worldwide. Symptoms of liver fluke infection include hyperplasia (a proliferation of cells in tissue), decreased liver function and blocked bile ducts. Lung fluke infection symptoms are often similar to other respiratory infections, including coughing, increased sputum, shortness of breath and chronic bronchitis.
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Liver flukes: Hyperplasia
For the most part, liver fluke infections are mild and do not exhibit major symptoms. Diagnosis is made by microscopic verification of fluke eggs in fecal matter and is readily treated by Praziquantel. Severe infections can cause hyperplasia (i.e., extra tissue cells) and interfere with the proper functioning of the liver. Hyperplasia can lead to abdominal pain and distension in 5 to 10 per cent of infected patients.
Liver flukes: Blocked bile ducts
The liver produces bile, helping the body to break down fats which exit the liver through the bile ducts to the gallbladder before leaving the body through the small intestines. Liver flukes infection can cause the bile ducts to become blocked. In turn, this can lead to bile building up in the liver and jaundice due to increased bilirubin levels in the bloodstream. Blocked bile ducts can cause dark urine, fever, itching and nausea.
Liver flukes: Other symptoms
Major fluke infections can lead to flatulence and fatigue in some patients. Liver fluke infections of extended duration can also lead to fibrosis of the liver. Additionally, liver fluke infection has been strongly linked to cancer of the bile ducts (cholangiocarcinoma).
Lung flukes: Respiratory difficulties
Major infection of lung flukes, caused by the consumption of undercooked crab infected with Paragonimus westermanii, can manifest itself by coughing, increased sputum and chest pain. Infection can be severe enough to cause hemoptysis--the coughing up of blood. Some patients will experience chronic bronchitis. Symptoms of lung fluke infection can be the same as other pulmonary disorders such as tuberculosis, including fatigue, low-grade fever, persistent cough, loss of appetite, night sweats and blood in the sputum. Diagnosis is made by microscopic evaluation of sputum for the presence of Paragonimus eggs. X-ray examination can be used to determine lung flukes infections, but due to the similarity with other pulmonary disorders, a misdiagnosis can often be made. Just as with liver flukes infections, Praziquantel can be administered to treat lung flukes.
Lung flukes: Cerebral infection
Lung flukes can also infect other parts of the body, including the brain and the skin. Patients who have been infected with lung flukes that enter the brain will exhibit symptoms including headaches, fever, nausea, visual disturbances and even convulsive seizures.
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