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GIARDIASI

Giardiasis is an intestinal infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Giardia lambia. This infection is more common in children than in adults. It is usually developed in underdeveloped countries which lack sanitary conditions and water quality. It can also be transmitted through a person. Giardiasis usually gets cleared up within few weeks, but if the symptoms persist for a longer duration, treatment should be given.

Symptoms

The symptoms of giardiasis may come and go for some time. It takes nearly 7 to 10 days (after getting exposed to the parasite) for a person to develop the symptoms; however, few patients do not develop the symptoms at all. Diarrhea along with abdominal cramps and nausea is the most common symptom of Giardiasis. The other symptoms include:

  • Foul-smelling flatulence and belching
  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss due to malnutrition

Causes

Taking contaminated food and water is the main cause of giardiasis. Giardia parasites are commonly found in the lakes, ponds, swimming pools, and water parks. Food is also a common source of infection; the parasite transmits through food especially when the patient eats without washing hands. Person-to-person contact also causes giardiasis when the person’s hands get contacted with fecal matter (contaminated with giardiasis), for example, while changing the diapers.

Risk factors

Giardia is a common intestinal parasite and hence anyone can easily get infected. However, the risk is more in children compared to adults. People who travel to various places should be very careful about drinking water as they are at risk of developing giardiasis. People who have anal sex without using condoms are also at increased risk of developing giardiasis and sexually transmitted disease.

Complications

Giardiasis is a normal condition and hence do not cause any complications. However, few people who with serious symptoms may develop complications like dehydration, improper physical and mental development of the child, and lactose intolerance.

Diagnosis

Stool testing is the main diagnostic test for giardiasis. The doctor tests the stool sample for the presence of giardia parasites. The patient may have to give various stool samples to confirm the disease. Enteroscopy is another diagnostic test used to confirm giardiasis. In this test, a small tube is inserted into the throat and small intestine to examine the digestive tract and to take a tissue sample. The doctors may also go for enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, also called as ELISA test for confirming the disease.

Treatment

Giardiasis usually gets managed on its own within few weeks. If the infection is severe or is present for a longer duration, medications are prescribed. Antiparasitic drugs are the commonly prescribed drugs to treat giardiasis, these drugs include:

  • Metronidazole-commonly used antibiotic for giardia infection; the patients should avoid alcohol while on this drug
  • Tinidazole-this drug is usually given in single dose
  • Nitazoxanide-this drug comes in liquid form and hence is commonly prescribed for children

These drugs are avoided in pregnant women due to their potent side effects. Paromycin is one drug which can be considered during pregnancy due to lower side effects. If the symptoms are mild, the doctor would delay the treatment until the first trimester. If the condition is severe, other treatment options are recommended.

Prevention

Giardiasis cannot be prevented but one can lower the risk of getting it by following certain precautions like:

  • Washing hands thoroughly after using a toilet or changing diapers, before eating and cooking. If soap is not available, alcohol-based sanitizer can be used.
  • Avoid drinking water from wells, ponds, and streams without boiling; boil the water for at least 10 minutes before drinking
  • Avoid swallowing water while swimming in pools, lakes, or streams.
  • Use condoms while engaging in anal sex
  • Do not drink or brush the teeth with tap water, especially while traveling. Also, avoid eating raw fruits and vegetables and iced beverages.
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