Chagas Disease - Symptoms, Types and Diagnosis

    Chagas disease is a vector-borne illness that is caused by infection with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. It is spread through an insect called triatomine bug or “kissing bug.” Affecting nearly seven million people worldwide, the disease is quite common in South America, Mexico, and Central America. The disease can cause serious heart and digestive issues if the person does not receive timely treatment.




    The two main stages of the disease are:


    Acute phase
    The acute phase of Chagas disease, which stays for weeks or months, is often symptom-free. Here are some signs and symptoms that develop during the acute phase:


    • Eyelid swelling
    • Swelling at the infection site
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Rash
    • Loss of appetite
    • Nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
    • Swollen glands
    • Body aches
    • Headache
    • Enlargement of your liver or spleen


    If the disease is not treated in the acute phase, it may progress to the chronic phase.


    Chronic phase
    The chronic phase occurs in people 10 to 20 years after the initial infection. The symptoms for this phase usually remain for life, often involving heart and intestinal tract. The signs and symptoms may include:


    • Sudden cardiac arrest
    • Irregular heartbeat
    • Heart failure
    • Difficulty swallowing due to enlarged esophagus
    • Stomach pain or constipation because of enlarged colon

    How do you get it?

    Triatomine bugs are blood-sucking insects that feed on human and animal blood. These bugs are nocturnal and bite on people’s faces when they are sleeping. They defecate immediately after biting and leave the parasite on the skin. The parasites can then enter your body through your mouth, eyes, a cut, or the wound from the bug’s bite.


    In addition to contact with feces from infected bugs, you can also get Chagas disease in the following ways:


    • Birth (mother-to-baby)
    • Exposure in the lab
    • Blood transfusion
    • Organ transplant
    • Uncooked food infected with feces from infected bugs


    How is Chagas disease diagnosed?

    To confirm or rule out whether you have Chagas disease or not, your doctor may ask about your symptoms and do a physical examination. People suspected to have Chagas disease may have to go for blood tests to confirm the presence of the parasite or to find out the proteins that the immune system creates to fight the parasites in your blood.


    If the blog test is positive, you may be required to go for additional tests such as:


    • Electrocardiogram: Recording electrical signals in your heart, an ECG can quickly detect heart problems
    • Chest X-ray: This imaging test allows your doctor to see any abnormal heart shape or size and other abnormalities
    • Echocardiogram: It uses sound waves to capture moving images of your heart
    • Abdominal X-ray: It uses radiation to capture images of your stomach, intestines, and colon
    • Upper endoscopy: It helps to transmit images of your esophagus onto a screen



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