Chagas Disease - Health Center
By Refadoc, Posted on : Tuesday, 15 September 2015 - 10:46 am IST
Chagas Disease: Basic Overview
Chagas Disease is an inflammatory and an infectious disease which is caused due to a parasite found in the faeces of the triatomine insect. This disease is very common across regions such as South America, Central America and Mexico. However, in rarer forms, the disease can be found in other areas as well.
The parasite causing the disease is also known as American trypanosomiasis. The disease is known to infect people of all age groups. However, children are most widely diagnosed with the condition. If left untreated, the disease can later cause serious heart and digestive problems. The treatment options for the disease concentrates on killing the parasites and managing the signs and symptoms associated with the condition. Steps can be taken in order to prevent the infection.
Causes of Chagas Disease:
The parasite Trypanosoma Cruzi is the cause of Chagas Disease. This disease is transmitted to the humans via the biting of an insect known as the Triatomine Bug. This insect can become infected with the parasite upon ingesting the blood of an animal which had been previously infected with the parasite.
The Triatomine Bugs are found easily in the soils of Mexico, Central and South America. These bugs hide in the crevices of the wall and mud. Often, they come out during night time to feed on sleeping humans. The bugs often defecate once they are fed which can leave the parasites on the person’s body. These parasites can easily enter the body via any cuts on the skin or the body openings. Rubbing the bite side can also help the parasites to enter the body. Once these parasites enter the body, they tend to multiply and spread readily.
Apart from this, some of the other modes of infection are as follows:
- Eating uncooked food which has been contaminated by the parasite.
- Infection from a pregnant mother to the unborn child.
- Blood transfusion from an infected person
- Getting an organ transplant from an infected person
- Spending time in the forests and in the wilderness
- Being around an animal infected with the parasite
Signs and Symptoms of Chagas Disease
There are two different phases of Chagas Disease – Acute and chronic. The symptoms can range from mild to severe depending upon the patient.
In the acute stage, the symptoms can last for weeks to months. However, the major signs and symptoms in this stage are as follows:
- Swelling in the infected region
- Fever and fatigue
- Rashes and swelling on the eyelids
- Headaches and body aches
- Loss of appetite
- Vomiting and Diarrhoea
- Swelling across the major glands
- Enlargement of the liver and spleen
These signs and symptoms tend to go away on their own. If the infection is left untreated, it can advance to the chronic stage.
In the Chronic Stage, the signs and symptoms can appear even after 10-20 years after the initial infection. In this stage, the symptoms are as follows:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart Failure
- Cardiac Arrest
- Enlargement of the oesophagus
- Pain in the abdomen
- Enlargement of the colon
Tests and Diagnosis of Chagas Disease:
After conducting the physical examination, the doctor may ask you about your signs and symptoms. If these symptoms match to those of Chagas Disease, blood tests are done in order to check and confirm the presence of T. Chuzi parasite in the bloodstream. Additional tests are also done in order to check if the disease is of chronic or acute nature. Some of these tests are as follows:
- Electrocardiogram: This procedure is done in order to record the electrical activity of the heart.
- Chest X Rays: These are done in order to look for signs of an enlarged heart.
- Echocardiogram: This uses sound waves in order to look for the moving images of the heart. This test allows the doctor to look for any changes in the heart or its function.
- Abdominal X Rays: This test uses radiation in order to look for the images of the stomach, intestine and the colon.
- Endoscopy: This procedure is done with the help of an endoscope in order to look for the images of the oesophagus on the screen.
Treatment and Drugs for Chagas Disease:
The treatment option for Chagas disease works towards killing the parasite and then managing the visible signs and symptoms in the patients. If a patient is suffering from an acute case of Chagas Disease, medications such as Benznidazole and Nifurtimox are best known to work against it.
In case of Chronic Chagas Disease, medications can’t help to control the disease. Drugs are however, offered to people below the age of 50 in order to slow down the progression of the disease and to prevent the complications. For heart related complications stemming from the disease, medications along with a pacemaker can be used in order to regulate the symptoms. For complications related to the digestive system, medications, corticosteroids and surgery can be used to contain the disease.