Even the thought of a parasite is enough to make most people gag. We cannot stand the idea of another organism living and growing within our bodies. It sounds like something of a bad horror movie, and there are in fact several on the topic. However, parasites are much more common than most people think or would want to believe. They can cause a myriad of conditions and create a laundry list of symptoms. Or they can create almost no symptoms at all and go undetected for years. Either way, living with a parasite is not something anyone would want to endure, and there are some signs that you may want to be on the lookout for.
What is a parasite?
Before we get into the causes and symptoms of parasites in the human body, it is important to first understand what they are. Simply put, a parasite is any organism that lives by feeding directly off of another organism. There are a number of different types of parasites that can live and grow inside humans, and they each can create their own unique set of issues and symptoms. The most common forms grow inside the gut, because of the large supply of food that would be available to them there. These are known as intestinal parasites.
Intestinal parasites are tiny, living organisms that can grow inside the stomach or intestines of a human by feeding off of the nutrition found there. There are two main types of intestinal parasites: helminths and protozoa.
Helminths are the worms that are the common parasites inside the human gut. These include tapeworms, pinworms, roundworms, hookworms and more. They can create a number of different symptoms. Some will directly consume the nutrition from the food you eat, causing you to feel hungry after every meal and unable to gain weight no matter how much you eat. Others will lay eggs inside your gut and skin which causes irritation, itching and even mental disorders. Some can feed off of your red blood cells, causing anemia. Because there is such a wide range of intestinal worms, the range of symptoms is also wide and will depend upon which type of worm a person has.
Protozoa are different from helminths in that they are less complex. They are single-celled organisms that can multiply within the human body. While they are not as complex of organisms as their counterparts, they can actually be even more dangerous. This is because helminths cannot multiply inside a human body, but protozoa can do it an unlimited number of times. This can lead to severe infections and other critical problems. This is similar to the yeast and bacteria that grow naturally within the human gut. While it is not dangerous in normal amounts, certain issues can lead the balance of bacteria or yeast to be thrown out of whack, and this is when problems arise.
Signs That You May Have a Parasite
- Vaginal yeast infection: Also known as vaginal thrush, this is one of the most common symptoms of a protozoa issue. It is the excessive growth of the yeast that naturally occurs in the body and results in an infection of the vagina. This can cause itching, irritation, burning during urination, white vaginal discharge, pain during sex and redness around the vagina. Although one yeast infection does not necessarily mean a parasite problem, multiple recurring infections could be a sign.
- Bloating and Gas: This is one of the most common signs of intestinal worms. It is generally caused by the toxic discharge of the worms inside your body, causing you to be constantly gassy. After the worms have consumed your nutrition and converted it into energy, they will leave waste in the form of toxins that can be very hard to get rid of.
- Immune Problems: If you are constantly getting sick and cannot determine a reason, a parasite could be to blame. This is in large part due to the close relation the gut has to your immune system. An imbalance of the bacteria and other features of the gut that fight illness could be due to a parasite and cause a cascade of immune deficiencies. It could also be due to parasites feeding directly off of the blood cells that help fight off sickness.
- Rectal Itching: Many parasites will lay eggs inside the body that can cause irritation of the skin. This most commonly happens when female parasites travel towards the anus to lay eggs at night.
- Athlete’s Foot: Fungal infections are the most common forms of parasitic issues that are not related to the digestive system. It is a skin irritation that is caused by the growth of fungus on the foot that causes itching, scaling and redness. This same form of fungal problem can grow on the hands or under the nails.
Dealing With Parasites
Because parasites feed directly off of the nutrition that gives you energy, the most common symptom is fatigue or constantly being tired. Other parasites can cause no symptoms at all and go undetected for years. Because there are so many different types of parasites and symptoms, there is no one treatment for them. If you believe you have one, you should immediately see your doctor who will be able to identify the parasite and recommend the right course of treatment.