So have you got IBS or parasite infection? Yes, seriously, you may not have Irritable Bowel Syndrome at all!
Some infections that infect your bowel can give symptoms very similar to those of IBS.
If you have noticed symptoms occurred after a holiday or trip or even at home, you may find this information important and certainly worth discussing with your doctor.
So, have you got IBS or parasite infection?
Giardiasis is protozoan infection that caused by Giardia lamblia.
It causes diarrhea, wind, bloating, maybe low grade fever (although not always) and is spread via the fecal oral route.
In other words, if you pick up the infection having handled contaminated food, soil, water or animal waste you can ingest it if you haven’t washed your hands properly.
If you eat undercooked food contaminated with giardia, you can inadvertently eat it.
The symptoms normally start four to send days after being infected.
This infection is diagnosed by stool sample, looking for the ova and cysts contained within it. The pickup rate is not that high, so I usually treat the infection if I suspect it.
A duodenal aspirate can be obtained during an endoscopy test, fluid taken from the duodenum or small bowel.
This can be analysed by microscope to look for the ova, cysts and parasites.
It is normally treated with an antibiotic known as Metronidazole which is given for 7 to 10 days. An alternative is a drug called Tinidazole.
There are a variety of worm infections that can mimic IBS.
You may notice the worm in your toilet when you open your bowels, but they can sometimes go unnoticed.
The common ones are:
Tapeworm comes from undercooked pork and they look like flat, long segmented parasites.
They can grow very long and have hooks on the head which fix them to your bowel wall.
You may not notice them as segments because they can break off and can come out in your stool and underwear.
It is normally diagnosed by seeing the worm in your stool although there are more sophisticated tests that your doctor can do.
It is normally treated with a drug called Praziquantel or Niclosamide which you will need to get from your doctor.
Roundworm infection or ascaris and are the size of a small earth worm. The eggs are picked up in contaminated food and swallowed.
They can upset your gut and also cause asthma-like symptoms and an itchy rash.
It is diagnosed through stool sample inspection or seeing the worm in your toilet pan.
Roundworm is treated with Mebendazole, Albendazole or Piperazine.
Strongyloides is caused by the parasite, Strongyloides stercoralis, a form of roundworm.
It is normally picked up in warm, humid climates in South America, USA and Western Europe.
If you have been to any of these areas and developed symptoms, this infection should be considered by your doctor.
It can cause upset bowel and an itchy rash called Cutaneous Larvae Migrans, usually around your buttock area.
When infecting the lungs it can cause cough, wheeze, bloody sputum and shortness of breath.
It is normally diagnosed from stool tests in some people, but often they are not seen.
A blood test may show raised eosinophils, inflammatory cells that are involved in allergy.
Antibody tests or a PCR blood test can show evidence of infection.
This infection is normally treated with Ivermectin or Albendazole.
Whilst the majority of people will have Irritable Bowel Syndrome, you have to remember it’s not always the case.
You should have a stool sample analysed at the very least, but if you have a high index of suspicion that you might have developed a parasite infection, do discuss this with your doctor.