What is hookworm disease?

Hookworm disease is a parasitic disease caused by the entry of larvae (immature form) of the hookworm, most commonly, Necator americanus, into a human host. People usually get hookworm disease by walking barefoot in soil that is contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Hookworm larvae enter through the skin, typically on the foot, and travel up through the bloodstream into the lungs. From the lungs, they are coughed up into the mouth, where they are swallowed and travel through the gastrointestinal tract to infest the small intestine.

Hookworm disease affects approximately 740 million people worldwide, mostly in tropical and subtropical areas. Hookworm is rare in regions that receive less than 40 inches of annual rainfall. It was once a problem in the southern United States but has largely been contained as a result of improved hygiene. (Source NIAID).

Hookworm disease can produce an itchy rash, often called ground itch, at the site of initial skin infection. When the hookworm larvae are present in the lungs, coughing with or without bloody sputum may result. When present in the intestines, hookworm infection usually does not produce any recognizable symptoms. However, some people may experience diarrhea, abdominal pain, intestinal cramps, and nausea. Chronic or persistent hookworm disease can cause anemia (low red blood count) due to blood loss, especially in people with poor health or in pregnant women.

Seek prompt medical care if you experience nausea and diarrhea, especially if these symptoms persist or worsen over time. Vomiting and diarrhea can cause dehydration and require treatment with intravenous fluids. You should also seek prompt medical care if you experience fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, and chest pains, which may be symptoms of anemia.


SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of hookworm disease?

In most cases, you will not experience symptoms if you have a hookworm infestation in the intestines. However, as the hookworm larvae mature in the intestines, gastrointestinal symptoms, such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, may sometimes occur. Some people experience itching, swelling or redness of the skin where the lar... Read more about hookworm diseasesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes hookworm disease?

Hookworm disease is caused by parasitic hookworms in the human body, usually picked up from contact with contaminated soil. Necator americanus is the type of hookworm that most commonly causes infestation in the United States, but other types of hookworm may also cause disease in humans and animals. Hookworm infestation is most common in moist, subtropical areas. Hookworm eggs are deposited int... Read more about hookworm diseasecauses

TREATMENTS

How is hookworm disease treated?

Treatment for hookworm disease begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have hookworms, your health care provider will ask you to provide stool samples for laboratory testing.

Anthelmintics, which are drugs that eliminate parasitic worms, are the standard treatment for hookworm disease. It is important to follow your treatment plan preci... Read more about hookworm diseasetreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails


Top Features in Skin, Hair and Nails

15 Ways To Get Better Medicine

People who are actively involved in their medical care stay healthier, recover quicker when they're ill, and live longer, healthier lives.