Giardiasis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help
Giardiasis is an acute intestinal infection caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia. It is characterised by gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
Giardiasis: Incidence, age and sex
Giardiasis is usually seen in places where sanitation practices are poor and hygiene is inadequate. It is especially common in hikers and campers. All individuals including children and adults may be afflicted with this infection.
Signs and symptoms of giardiasis: Diagnosis
The symptoms of Giardiasis generally appear after a week or two of exposure. The most prominent symptom is the increased frequency of loose stools (also called diarrhoea) which is accompanied with abdominal cramps in most of the individuals. Other features which are less commonly encountered are mild fever, headache and nausea.
The affected individual may show signs of dehydration if diarrhoea is severe and persistent. Such signs constitute dryness of the mouth, sunken eyes, dry and pinched skin, lethargy, diminished urine output and palpitations. A detailed history and examination may help in detecting the parasitic infection which can be confirmed by isolating the offending parasite in stool culture.
Causes and prevention of giardiasis
Giardiasis is caused by the parasite Giardia lamblia which is a unicellular parasite commonly found in the contaminated water supply of lakes and ponds in mountainous areas. Therefore campers and hikers are especially susceptible to get this intestinal infection. It is a water-borne diarrhoeal illness which spreads in the population through the ingestion of contaminated water.
Giardiasis is usually a mild to moderate disease which requires immediate and adequate replenishment with fluids. However in certain individuals, where water loss from body is abundant, dehydration may ensue. If dehydration is not managed timely, it may worsen leading to electrolyte imbalance, occasional seizures or even death. Longstanding infection may progress to malabsorption and loss of weight.
Giardiasis is a self-limiting infection which generally resolves with time. Meanwhile symptomatic relief and adequate hydration results in complete recovery in most cases. Fluids can be given orally or even intravenously depending on the grade of dehydration and condition of the individual. Some individuals may not show any improvement and need medications. Drugs like metronidazole or furizolidone can be prescribed in such individuals. However pregnant women should refrain from taking these medications in view of their harmful effects on the baby.