Pinworms: Are They The Cause of Your Itchy Anus?
It might be embarrassing to think that you have been infected by this ugly little parasite, but the truth is that pinworms are easy to catch and can often cause an itch in the anal area. Whilst a soothing cream for ‘down there’ might ease the immediate symptom, you are going to have to deal with the main problem if you don’t want a reoccurrence.
What are Pinworms?
- Also called threadworms, they are parasites that find their way into the gut.
- They are the most common kind of intestinal parasite and are nothing to be ashamed of.
- From the family Enterobius, they are commonly known as nemotodes, or round worms.
- They are quite small, about 15mm long and half a millimetre wide.
- They are found everywhere around the world, and the estimates are that, at any given time, about 11% of us are infected.
- They spread more easily when people are in close contact, so if one person in a family gets them, chances are everyone else in the same house will.
- They breed in your stomach and can have a life cycle of around 7 to 12 weeks, laying eggs and creating more little pinworms.
The Effects and Treatment of Pinworms
In humans, pinworms cause a condition called enterobiasis, the primary symptom of which is an itchy anus. This itching often occurs more at night and is thought to be caused by the female threadworm migrating to the anal area in order to lay her eggs.
This itching can vary from a little tickling to a severe pain in more advanced conditions and is exacerbated if you start to scratch the infected area, causing the fragile skin to tear and making way for a bacterial infection.
Your GP will be able to test for the presence of pinworms by using something similar to scotch tape that is pressed against the anal area and helps remove any parasites that are there. The tape is then examined under the microscope to determine if any infection is present.
Historically, garlic has always been used to treat or control intestinal parasites. Nowadays, pinworms are treated with Albendazole and Mebendazole that cause the parasites to starve. The problem is that reinfection, particularly with large families living together in one house, is easy and treatment may have to take place over a significant period of time if you want to make sure that you are clear.
Of course you can reduce the risk of ingesting pinworms by keeping up a normal hygiene regime such as washing hands regularly and making sure soiled clothes are put in the washer straight away. In truth, unless you have an itching anus you probably won’t notice that you have the parasite. Research suggests that, for about a third of the population, there are no symptoms whatsoever.
Needless to say, if you think you have a pinworm infection then you should visit your GP.