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Bilharzia: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About bilharzia

Bilharzia, also called ‘schistosomiasis’ is a parasitic disease rarely seen in people residing in the U.K. and other developed countries. It is caused by a parasite belonging to the genus Schistosomes and transmitted to humans by snails.

Bilharzia: Incidence, age and sex

Bilharzia is a disease of third world countries, especially in areas of poor sanitation facilities. Its incidence is high in Africa as compared with other places. Though bilharzia may occur in any age group, children seem to be more commonly afflicted.

Signs and symptoms of bilharzia: Diagnosis

The snails harbour the worms which may then be transmitted to humans by direct contact. These parasitic flatworms enter the human body through skin and then pass on into the bloodstream from where they may travel to urinary bladder (urinary bilharzia) or intestines (intestinal bilharzia). The common clinical features include itching of skin at site of entry along with fever with chills and headache. Other features include skin pallor, fatigue, cough and muscle ache. Urinary bilharzia presents with burning micturition, increased frequency of urination and occasionally blood in urine. Intestinal bilharzia presents with vomiting and diarrhoea. The diagnosis of bilharzia can be established by urine and stool test which may show the presence of eggs of the offending parasite.

Causes and prevention of bilharzia

Bilharzia is a parasitic infection caused by flat worm which inflicts human intestines and urinary bladder. The eggs of the parasite are excreted in human stools and urine. These eggs may be present in fresh water in places of poor sanitation practices. Fresh water snails harbour these eggs which may be later transmitted to humans by washing, bathing or swimming in contaminated water. It is advisable for tourists to avoid swimming in water in tropical countries to minimise the risk of bilharzia infection. Bilharzia is not infectious since it cannot be transmitted from person to person.

Bilharzia: Complications

Bilharzia, left untreated may result in potentially fatal damage to intestines, liver or urinary system. Thus it is advisable to consult a specialist when you experience symptoms of bilharzia, without any delay. Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment will help in keeping the complications at bay.

Bilharzia: Treatment

The symptoms of bilharzia along with a history of travel to tropical regions, establish the diagnosis of bilharzia, which can be effectively treated with anti-parasitic medications like Praziquantel. Other drugs like anti-emetics or antipyretics may help in providing symptomatic relief to the individual.