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Giardiasis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Nov 09, 2023

Giardiasis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Giardiasis is an intestinal illness that causes watery diarrhea, nausea, bloating, and stomach pains. Giardia infection is caused by a minute parasite that is widespread throughout the world, especially in areas with poor sanitation and contaminated water.

The parasites are present in swimming pools, whirlpool spas, public water sources, wells, and wild streams and lakes. Giardia infections can spread through two different channels, food and human interaction.

Giardia infections usually clear up in a few weeks. But even after the parasites have vanished, stomach problems could still exist. Although several drugs are effective against giardia parasites, not all patients experience these benefits. The most effective method is prevention.

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Causes  Of Giardiasis

Giardia parasites live in the intestines of both humans and animals. Before being expelled in feces, the microscopic parasites can survive outside of the intestines for months due to the hard shells they produce called cysts that shield them from the environment. When the cysts inside the host dissolve, the parasites are released.

An infection develops if you unintentionally swallow the parasite cysts. This may occur from consuming contaminated food, consuming contaminated water, or coming into contact with someone else.

Also Read: Clostridium Difficile: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Drinking contaminated water

The most common way to get giardia is to drink contaminated or unsafe water. Giardia parasites can be found in lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams all around the world. Additionally, swimming pools, water parks, spas, cisterns, public water sources, and wells are habitats for them. Giardia may penetrate surface and ground waterways by agricultural runoff, wastewater discharge, and animal excrement. Children in diapers and those with diarrhea may unintentionally contaminate spas and swimming pools.

Eating contaminated Food

Giardia can spread through food when raw fruit is cleaned or irrigated with contaminated water, or when people handling food who have giardia illnesses fail to wash their hands adequately. Food is a less common source of illness than water, especially in affluent countries, because cooking eliminates giardia.

Interpersonal Interaction

Your hands can become contaminated with Giardia if they come into contact with feces

Parents who change a child's diaper are especially at risk. Both the carers and the children are experiencing more frequent breakouts in childcare institutions. Furthermore, the giardia parasite can be spread through anal intercourse.

Also Read: Shigellosis: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention and Complications

Symptoms Of Giardiasis

Some people with giardia infections remain undetected while carrying the parasite and having the ability to spread it to others through their feces. If someone gets sick, the following signs and symptoms can appear one to three weeks after exposure:

  • Watery, occasionally foul-smelling diarrhea that alternates with soft, greasy stools
  • Tiredness
  • Stomach bloating and cramps
  • Nausea
  • Loss of weight

The signs and symptoms of a Giardia infection can last anywhere from two to six weeks, however in some cases, they may recur or continue longer.

Also Read: Listeriosis : Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention

Risk Factors  Of Giardiasis

Giardia parasites are a highly common type of intestinal parasite. Although everybody can get a Giardia parasite infection, some people are more susceptible than others:

  • Children- Children are far more likely than adults to contract Giardia infections. People are more likely to come into contact with waste products, especially if they use diapers, are learning to use the toilet, or are in the nursery. Giardia infection is also more likely to affect those who work with or live with small children.
  • Individuals without access to potable water. Giardiasis is common whenever there is inadequate sanitation or contaminated water. You run the danger of contracting giardia when you travel, especially if you don't watch what you eat and drink. The greatest risk is seen in isolated or untamed areas.
  • Individuals who have anal sex. Giardiasis and other sexually transmitted infections are more common in people who have anal or oral-anal sex without using a condom or other kind of protection.

Also Read: Measles: Causes, Clinical Presentation, Risk Factors, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment And Vaccination

Diagnosis  Of Giardiasis

Your doctor will likely test a sample of your stool to help with the diagnosis of giardiasis. To ensure accuracy, you might be asked to provide many stool samples collected over several days. Subsequently, the samples undergo laboratory testing to detect the presence of parasites. Stool tests might also be done to monitor the effectiveness of any therapies you are receiving.

Also Read: Group A Streptococcal Infections : Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

Treatment  Of Giardiasis

For children or adults with giardia infections who do not show symptoms, treatment is usually not required unless they are at danger of transmitting the parasites. Even those who do encounter problems usually bounce back on their own in a few weeks.

When giardia infections cause severe symptoms or the infection persists, doctors usually prescribe drugs such as these.

  • Metronidazole: Metronidazole is the drug that is most frequently administered for giardiasis infections. Possible side effects include nausea and a metallic aftertaste. 
  • Tinidazole, or tindamax: Tinidazole acts and has many of the same side effects as metronidazole, even though it can be taken in a single dose.
  • Nitazoxanide: Since nitazoxanide is a liquid, children may find it easier to swallow. Possible adverse effects include gas, nausea, yellow eyes, and brightly colored yellow urine.

It is not routinely indicated to treat giardia infection during pregnancy due to potentially harmful pharmacological effects on the baby. If your symptoms are mild, your doctor might suggest delaying therapy until after the first trimester or even later. Consult your doctor about the best course of action if treatment is necessary.

Prevention  Of Giardiasis

No vaccine or medicine can prevent a Giardia infection. On the other hand, you may considerably reduce your chance of getting infected or spreading an infection to others by adopting appropriate safety measures.

  • Clean your hands: This is the most straightforward and effective way to prevent most diseases. Spend at least 20 seconds washing your hands with soap and water before eating or preparing food, as well as after using the restroom or changing diapers. Alcohol-based sanitizers can be used in place of soap and water. However, alcohol-based sanitizers are unable to destroy the cyst form of giardia that inhabits the environment.
  • Purify wilderness water: Drinking untreated water from shallow wells, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, and streams is not advised until it has been boiled for a minimum of ten minutes at 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) or filtered.
  • Clean the vegetables: Clean, safe water should be used to wash any raw produce. Peel the fruit before eating it. Avoid eating uncooked fruits and vegetables when visiting countries where they may come into contact with contaminated water.
  • Keep your mouth shut: Steer clear of water when swimming in lakes, pools, or streams.
  • Use water from a bottle: If you are traveling to a part of the world where the water supply is likely harmful, use bottled water to wash your teeth and drink. Using ice is not suggested.
  • Have sex with greater safety: When engaging in anal intercourse, wear a condom at all times. Avoid oral-anal intercourse if you are not fully protected.

Complications  Of Giardiasis

A giardia infection seldom results in death in developed countries. But, especially in young infants and babies, it can have serious repercussions and lingering symptoms. The most common complications are as follows:

  • Dehydration: Dehydration often accompanies episodes of acute diarrhea because the body lacks the necessary water to carry out its normal functions.
  • Failure to thrive: Malnourishment and stunted growth in children can result from Giardia infections that induce recurrent diarrhea.
  • Lactose intolerant: Lactose intolerance, or the inability to properly digest milk sugar, is a typical side effect of giardia infection. The problem may persist long after the infection has subsided.

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