Chagas Disease Treatment in Asheville, NC
What Is Chagas Disease?
Chagas disease, also known as American Trypanosomiasis, is an inflammatory, infectious disease caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, and is spread by the triatominae bug, also known as the kissing bug or reduviid bug. Once infected, the disease has two phases:
- Acute: mild symptoms that last for a period of a few weeks to two months
- Chronic: appears after 10-20 years and has more severe symptoms like chronic organ damage
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 8-11 million people in countries like Mexico and Central and South America are infected with Chagas disease, with the highest prevalence in rural areas. Although rare, cases in the southern U.S. have been reported, usually in individuals that travel from infected countries.
While acute Chagas disease may cause a mild fever, rash or nausea, chronic Chagas can cause serious cardiovascular and digestive conditions unless treated immediately. To schedule a consultation with a healthcare practitioner in Asheville who specializes in Chagas disease treatment, call (843) 492-4884 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
Cause of Chagas Disease
The most common cause of Chagas disease is through vector-borne transmission (insect bite). The triatomine bug contracts the T. cruzi parasite when it bites an infected animal or person. Humans can become infected when a triatominae bug bites them and defecates on their skin. The feces carry the T. cruzi infection into the human body through the mouth, eyes, or an open wound, such as the bug bite
Other, less-common causes of Chagas disease can include:
- Congenital transmission
- Spending time around infected animals
- Eating uncooked food containing the parasite
- Receiving an organ transplant or blood transfusion from an infected donor
Travelling to areas where Chagas disease is widespread can increase your risk of contracting a chagas infection.
Chagas Disease Symptoms
Chagas disease symptoms vary depending on whether or not the disease is in its acute or chronic stage.
Symptoms of acute Chagas disease include:
- Swollen glands
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
- Red swelling in the infection area
- Enlargement of your liver or spleen
Symptoms of chronic Chagas disease can arise years later, and include:
- Digestion problems
- Abdominal pain
- Enlarged heart
- Irregular heartbeat
Complications that can arise from chronic Chagas disease include:
- Heart failure or sudden cardiac arrest
- Dilated esophagus and/or colon
Diagnosing Chagas Disease
There are various ways to diagnose both acute and chronic Chagas disease. It is important to address symptoms in the acute stage because damage done to the body from chronic Chagas is usually irreversible.
Your healthcare practitioner can arrive at a Chagas disease diagnosis through testing, such as tests to detect antibodies caused by the infection. These include blood tests, enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA), or a peripheral blood smear.
Your healthcare provider may also suggest tests, such as a chest X-ray, echocardiogram, upper endoscopy, or an electrocardiogram, to check for an enlarged heart and digestive problems.
Chagas Infection Treatment
In the acute phase, Chagas treatment focuses on killing the T. cruzi parasite. This can be done with the medications benznidazole and nifurtimox. Side effects for these medications include headaches, dizziness, weight loss, loss of appetite, nerve damage, skin rashes, and sleeping issues. These side effects can worsen for older patients.
Treatment for chronic Chagas focuses on managing symptoms and complications, as medication will only help to slow down the progression of the parasite for people under the age of 50. Methods to treat these symptoms and complications differ between heart-related and digestive issues. To treat heart-related complications, medications, pacemakers, surgery, and heart transplants can be used, while methods to treat digestive-related complications may include medications like corticosteroids, diet changes, and surgery.
High-risk areas for Chagas infection are usually rural areas in the southern Americas. If you travel to these places, there are various ways that you can prevent infection. For example, using insecticides, insect repellents, and protective nets over your bedding will keep bugs away. Additionally, you should avoid residences located in mud or built with thatch or adobe materials, as kissing bugs thrive in those habitats.
Chagas disease can cause serious health problems if not properly treated. If you are experiencing a Chagas disease rash or other symptoms of Chagas disease, schedule an appointment with a practitioner in Asheville by calling (843) 492-4884 or contact Dr. Dalal Akoury online.
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