Pinworm infestation is a parasitic infestation that rarely causes serious health problems. However, the reinfection rate is very high, so treatment is important.
What are pinworms?
According to Foodezine, the pinworm is a human parasite. This means that it affects humans almost exclusively (in exceptional cases, pinworms can also affect primates such as great apes). In humans, pinworms mostly affect children, but there is also a high risk of infection for adults.
It is estimated that half of all children will experience pinworm infestation at least once in their lives. In technical jargon, a pinworm infestation is also referred to as oxyuriosis. Pinworms settle in humans in the large and small intestine. A pinworm infestation often causes severe itching in the anus area. The itching is particularly pronounced at night. In other cases, however, the pinworm infestation remains asymptomatic and therefore often undetected.
In the case of a pinworm infestation, the colony of pinworms that settles in the intestine can contain several hundred parasites.
An infestation with pinworms can occur, for example, through contact with infected people. The pinworm can also be transmitted through contact with excrement. Infection usually occurs through ingestion of pinworm eggs, from which larvae develop, which eventually settle in the intestine.
Pinworm infestation can also develop through contact with clothing or toys of infected people, as pinworm eggs can survive there for several weeks.
Other possible causes of pinworm infestation include eating fish or meat that is undercooked, or eating wild berries or mushrooms that are not washed. Finally, a pinworm infestation can also be caused by consuming fruit, vegetables or salad that has been fertilized with feces.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Pinworms do not initially cause any clear symptoms or discomfort. When the worms are excreted, an unpleasant itching can occur in the area of the anus, often combined with burning pain or problems with bowel movements. The itching can in turn cause subsequent symptoms such as sleep disorders, irritability and nervousness. Externally, the increasing exhaustion shows in the form of pale skin and dark circles under the eyes.
The pinworms themselves can lay eggs, causing chronic [[gastrointestinal disorders|gastrointestinal disorders, hemorrhoids, and other health problems. Over the long term, a massive worm infestation can lead to chronic diarrhea, rectal bleeding, or signs of appendicitis. This can be accompanied by weight loss and deficiency symptoms.
If the pinworms are not treated, well-being continues to decrease and the symptoms increase in intensity. In the worst case, an infestation causes a chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract. The symptoms of a pinworm infestation usually become noticeable after a day or two.
The laid eggs cause further symptoms after a few hours or days. With early and comprehensive treatment, the symptoms will become weaker after a few days and eventually subside. As a rule, long-term effects do not occur in the case of an infestation with pinworms.
Diagnosis & History
Only very rarely does a pinworm infestation lead to serious damage to the health of an affected person. However, in the case of a pinworm infestation, the risk of reinfection is very high: In the event of a pinworm infestation, female pinworms preferably leave the rectum at night to lay their eggs around the anus area. These eggs are already infectious after a few hours.
The suspected diagnosis of pinworm infestation can initially be based on the typical, severe itching in the anal area. This diagnosis can be confirmed, for example, by finding dead female pinworms on bed linen or pajamas. These pinworms can be seen with the naked eye. In the case of a pinworm infestation, the eggs of the pinworms can be recognized under the microscope with the help of a swab in the area of the anus.
As a rule, pinworms are not a serious disease. In most cases, it can be treated relatively easily and quickly, so that there are no particular complications. However, the symptoms of this disease are very unpleasant and can lead to psychological problems or inferiority complexes.
Pinworms can reappear, especially after successful treatment. Those affected suffer from a very unpleasant itching in the anus. White worms can also be seen in the stool. Patients are often ashamed of this complaint. As a rule, the diagnosis can be made very quickly, so that an early and quick treatment of this complaint is possible.
Most pinworms are treated with medication. These can kill the pinworms, so that the symptoms disappear relatively quickly. However, those affected are dependent on increased hygiene so that this complaint does not occur again. Life expectancy is not reduced by this disease. Likewise, the pinworms can also be transmitted to other people.
When should you go to the doctor?
If irregularities and abnormalities occur repeatedly when going to the toilet, a visit to the doctor is advisable. If you experience itching, an uncomfortable feeling in the area of the anus or irritation, you should consult a doctor. If there are open wounds, sterile wound care is required. If this cannot be sufficiently guaranteed by the person concerned, a doctor must be consulted, as otherwise sepsis can occur.
If there is blood in the stool or rectal bleeding, a doctor should clarify the symptoms. If there is a loss of weight, diffuse deficiency symptoms or general malaise, a doctor’s visit is advisable. A change in the complexion, paleness of the skin or the formation of dark circles under the eyes are indications of a disease that must be examined and treated.
Signs such as sensory disorders, a burning sensation on the skin or problems with bowel movements should be discussed with a doctor. Diarrhea, fatigue, exhaustion and sleep disorders are health problems that should be examined more closely by a doctor. If the person concerned shows unusual behavioral problems, increased nervousness or inner restlessness, a doctor’s visit is necessary. The formation of hemorrhoids and a chronic development of existing ailments are reasons for consulting a doctor.
Treatment & Therapy
Treating a pinworm infestation usually requires a combination of drug and non-drug measures. A suitable drug treatment for pinworm infestation is often the use of an anthelmintic, which is available in pharmacies, for example. In the case of pinworm infestation, the anthelmintic helps to kill the pinworms or at least prevent them from laying eggs.
It is usually important that such treatment of the pinworm infestation also involves the people who share a household with the infected person. In the case of a pinworm infestation, a further worming treatment is often recommended a few weeks after the treatment in order to kill any worms that are still alive or have newly formed. The use of a wormer, for example, can be unsuitable for pregnant women.
Since an anthelmintic can kill the pinworms but not their eggs, it is important to follow strict hygiene measures in addition to drug treatment in the event of a pinworm infestation: For example, bed linen and underwear should be boiled regularly. It is also advisable to clean your hands very thoroughly and keep your fingernails short in order to be able to remove any adhering worm eggs. Of course, you shouldn’t put your fingers in your mouth if you have worms, because scratching your buttocks often leaves pinworm eggs under your fingernails. Otherwise the cycle of infection starts all over again.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for pinworms is generally good. It is not a medical condition that has serious or serious health consequences. Nevertheless, medical care should be taken for a cure. The affected person needs a wormer so that the germs die off and can be transported out of the organism. Otherwise, the pinworms remain in the human body and can multiply there unhindered. The state of health is reduced overall, but there are usually no further impairments.
Despite being free of symptoms, the rate of reinfestation with pinworms is very high. If the person concerned has been infected once, he belongs to the risk group for re-infection. Although the prognosis is favorable even if pinworms are present again, attention should still be paid to further developments. Contact with faeces is to be avoided and the consumption of food is to be controlled more strictly.
Fruit and vegetables should never be eaten raw. It is advisable that food is washed well or sufficiently cooked before ingestion. Otherwise, new pinworms can quickly develop. Under no circumstances should raw meat be eaten. Pregnant women in particular should pay more attention to their food intake.
In order to be able to prevent a pinworm infestation, regular, thorough cleaning of the hands is particularly important. As already mentioned, fingers and hands should not be put in the mouth. Children, in particular, should be careful not to suck their thumbs or bite their fingernails.
Other potential sources of infection should also be avoided: For example, fruit, vegetables and salad should be washed before consumption and meat or fish should be eaten well cooked. So the most important thing to prevent pinworms is to avoid putting unwashed hands in your mouth.
Since pinworms are a relatively harmless disease that is easy to treat, it does not involve any special aftercare measures. After the acute treatment phase, the focus is therefore to thoroughly boil the underwear to kill any remaining eggs. If the illness was of a more serious nature, any nutrient deficiencies and weight loss must be carefully compensated for. A special diet is suitable for this, which gradually adjusts the body back to the usual food intake and compensates for missing nutrients and vitamins.
You can do that yourself
An infection with pinworms is usually not dangerous, but it is extremely unpleasant and annoying. Many sufferers are also embarrassed by the disease. Nevertheless, a doctor should be consulted promptly and the social immediate field, especially people living in the same household, should be informed, since the pinworms are highly contagious.
The sufferer himself can do best by adhering to strict hygienecontribute to his recovery. Female pinworms leave the intestines through the anus at night to lay their eggs. It is therefore extremely important to change pajamas, underwear and bed linen regularly at short intervals and to wash them at at least 60 degrees. This measure should be observed by all members of a household as a precautionary measure. Since pinworms can also be transmitted through contact with clothing or toys of infected people, extreme caution is required here. Children are often the first family members to become infected. In this case, the entire toy must also be cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis. Soft toys and doll clothes should be washed at at least 60 degrees. There is no risk of infection for pets, as long as they do not keep primates.
Pinworm remedies are also available over-the-counter in pharmacies. Self-medication is therefore also possible in the event of acute attacks on vacation or in other exceptional situations. Anyone who travels professionally or privately to regions with severely underdeveloped hygiene standards should add a wormer to their first-aid kit as a precaution.