Amebiasis – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatment
What is amebiasis?
Intestinal amebiasis is a parasite infection of the intestines. This infection is common in tropical areas with untreated water, but it occurs worldwide.
What causes amebiasis?
The parasite Entamoeba histolytica causes amebiasis. This parasite can live in the large intestine (colon) without causing damage to the intestine. Sometimes, it invades the colon wall, causing colitis, acute dysentery, or long-term (chronic) diarrhea. The infection can spread to the liver through the bloodstream. Rarely, it can spread to the lungs, brain, or other organs.
The parasite may spread by:
- Food or water contaminated with stools
- Fertilizer made of human waste
- From person to person, particularly by contact with the mouth or rectal area of an infected person
The following are the risk factors for severe amebiasis:
- Alcohol use
- Older or younger age
- Recent travel to a tropical region
- Use of corticosteroid medicine to suppress the immune system
What are the symptoms of amebiasis?
Amebiasis does not cause symptoms in most people. If symptoms occur, they appear 7 to 28 days after being exposed to the parasite.
The following are the mild symptoms of amebiasis:
- Tenesmus (rectal pain while having a bowel movement)
- Excessive gas
- Unintentional weight loss
The following are the severe symptoms of amebiasis:
- Abdominal tenderness
- Bloody stools, including passage of liquid stools with streaks of blood
- Passage of 10 to 20 stools per day
How is amebiasis diagnosed?
The doctor will perform a physical exam and review the symptoms and medical history. During the examination of the abdomen, the doctor may find liver enlargement or tenderness in the abdomen.
The doctor may order the following tests for diagnosis:
- Blood test for amebiasis
- Sigmoidoscopy (examination of the inside of the lower large bowel)
- Stool test
- Microscope examination of stool samples, usually with multiple samples over several days
How is amebiasis treated?
The treatment of amebiasis depends on the severity of the infection. Usually, doctors treat this condition with antibiotics.
The doctor may give medicines intravenously (through a vein) if there is vomiting until you can take them by mouth.
After antibiotic treatment, the doctor will recheck the stool to make sure if the infection has been cleared.
This feature is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute the expert guidance of a doctor. We advise seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns.