The Chagas disease is an infectious disease which is spread by parasites found in the feces of the reduviid bug, also known as the triatomine bug. This disease is common in the South and Central parts of the American continent, and in Mexico, which is considered by many the primary home of the reduviid bug. However, rare cases have also been reported in the southern parts of the United States.
It is common in children, but can infect almost everyone. If not treated, Chagas disease, also known as American Trypanosomiasis, can cause serious problems of the heart and digestive system. Chagas disease treatment focuses on the killing of the bug in the infection stage, followed by a focus on the management of the symptoms in the later stages.
Chagas disease treatment is difficult sometimes because of its unpredictability. It can either cause a sudden acute illness, or may be a long lasting condition. The symptoms typically range from mild to severe, although many that are infected do not experience anything until the chronic stage. Strangely, the acute stage of the disease, which might last for months, is often symptom free. When they occur, they are usually mild and in the form of:
- Infection site swelling
- Body aches
- Loss of appetite
- Nauseas, diarrhea and vomiting
- Enlargement of the liver or spleen
- Swollen glands
- Eyelid swelling
Many signs and symptoms which develop in the acute phase tend to go away on their own. However, if left untreated, they might persist and advance into the chronic stage.
The Chagas disease chronic phase might come between 10 and 20 years after the initial infection. Some of the symptoms include
- Congestive heart failure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty swallowing from enlarged esophagus
- Sudden cardiac arrest
- Enlarged colon resulting in sudden abdominal pain and constipation
Chagas disease treatment involves first killing the parasite, then subsequently managing the signs and symptoms. Prescription medication such as benzindazole or nifurtimox might be helpful during the acute phase of the disease. Both of these drugs are usually available in areas that are adversely affected by the Chagas disease. In the United States, though, one can only obtain drugs for Chagas disease treatment from the center for Disease Control.
However, after it reaches the chronic stage, medication will not be of much help in Chagas disease treatment. However, those under 50 might still be offered drugs in a bid to slow down the progress of the disease. Additional Chagas disease treatment at this stage normally depends on the specific signs and symptoms that the infected individual exhibits.
Those that experience heart related complications might benefit from a pacemaker, medication or other devices meant to control the heart rhythm. Heart surgery or transplant might also be an option. Chagas disease treatment for those suffering digestive related complications include medication, diet modification, corticosteroids or surgery in some extreme cases.
The Chagas disease treatment and development is complex and dangerous. To prevent infection, one should avoid sleeping in mud, thatch or adobe houses, since these are the residences most likely to harbor the triatomine bugs. The use of insecticides and insect repellants might also be helpful.