A pinworm infestation is caused by a type of roundworm known as Enterobius vermicularis.
Pinworm infestation occurs all over the world. Humans are the only known hosts. A person gets pinworms by swallowing the eggs of the worm. Pinworm eggs remain alive for up to three weeks.
Pinworms generally find a home in the colon, or large intestine. At night, they come through the anus to lay their eggs on the surrounding skin outside of it. Sometimes the worms migrate to other areas of the body, including the following: fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries with the uteruspelvisurethra, which is the tube that takes urine from the bladder to the outside of the bodyvagina
After leaving the colon to lay eggs or migrate to other parts of the body, the worms usually die. However, children and adults can sometimes reinfect themselves.
An itchy anus is the most common symptom of a pinworm infestation. It is caused by the adult worm migrating out through the anus to lay eggs. This usually occurs at night, which is when the itching will be most intense. The first signs and symptoms may not appear until one to two months or more after the person swallows the pinworm eggs.
A child with pinworms may have sleep disturbances. The child may be irritable because of the itching and poor sleep. If the infestation is severe, the person may be restless and have a poor appetite.
A pinworm infestation occurs when people swallow the pinworm eggs. They can live for up to two weeks on clothing, bedding, toys, and other objects. A person can get a pinworm infestation by swallowing eggs from these surfaces.
An individual can also be infested from fingers contaminated with the stool of an infected person. School-age children and preschoolers are most prone to pinworm infestations.
Mothers of infected children often become infested with pinworms. Other adults are less likely to have pinworms.
The spread of pinworm infestation can be minimized by good handwashing. This is especially important after using the toilet or changing diapers. Children should be discouraged from biting their nails or scratching the anal area.
Pinworms are diagnosed by finding the adult worms in the stool or around the anus. The worms are most visible two to three hours after the person goes to sleep. One way to check for eggs is to briefly place and remove a piece of clear adhesive tape over the anus. The tape can then be examined for signs of pinworms directly or with a microscope.
Pinworm infestations generally clear up on their own or with treatment, without any long-term effects.
Pinworm infestations can be transmitted from person to person by contaminated hands or objects.
Treatment is not usually needed, though parents are often concerned about the pinworms in their children. Medications to treat the infection include mebendazole (i.e., Vermox) and albendazole (i.e., Albenza).
The medications used to treat pinworm infestations may cause diarrhea, abdominal distress, headache, dizziness, and rash.
The pinworm infestation usually goes away, with or without treatment. If a person has repeated episodes of pinworms, it's important to look for the source of the new infestations.
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.