Pinworm infections are also known as enterobiasis because they are caused by small white worms known as Enterobius vermicularis. These are nematodes, which means they have the shape of worms, and they live in the human ascending colon, appendix, and cecum.
These small worms have pointed tails, which is one of the reasons why it is called pinworm. Males measure 2-5 mm, and females reach 8-13 mm long.
Pinworms are primarily found in the pediatric population, and most adults that are infected because the worms are passed down from their children. The infection is more prevalent in temperate regions, making pinworms one of the most common parasitic infections in North America.
In most cases, pinworms can be asymptomatic, and there are many asymptomatic carriers. In other words, they have the infection but don’t know about it, so they are spreading pinworms through contact with furniture, bedclothes, towels, toilets, and other forms of transmission.
One of the most common symptoms is scratching the bottom, especially at night. Children might not be able to sleep or complain very frequently about itching, which is caused by female pinworms who lay eggs around the anus. This is a bothering parasite that is easily transmitted through scratching. But there are reliable methods to eliminate them, as you will see in this article.
What you need to know about pinworm infections
As you probably know by now, one of the main symptoms of pinworm infection is pruritus in the anal region. It is also described as a prickling sensation in the anal area or around the anus. This happens because female pinworms travel through the gastrointestinal tube to reach the anal area.
There, these worms introduce the tail and make perforations in the perianal region to lay their eggs. This is usually done every night as the patient sleeps, which is why they wake up with the urge to scratch. Most infections by people sleeping with the patient happen at night, too.
The newly laid down eggs remain in the anal region for around three weeks, and when they hatch into a larva, they return to the anus and the intestines, worsening the infection. However, you can scratch and help these pinworms migrate to infect another person in the process.
The eggs can spread through the air and in bedsheets, toys, money, and many other forms of contagion. New users manipulate them and get infected when touching their mouths.
You are at a higher risk of getting infected with pinworms in these cases:
- If you are living with a person who turns out to be positive for Enterobius vermicularis
- If you’re used to eating without washing your hands
- People and groups with poor personal hygiene
- Children and people living in overcrowded spaces
The prevalence of this disease in the United States depends on various factors, but studies range between 0.2 and 20% prevalence in children. It is not only common in children but also in institutionalized patients, who are reported to have a prevalence of 50-100%. Luckily, pinworm infections do not cause severe complications, and one of the only severe morbidity issues is an ectopic infection, which is rare.