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