Toxoplasmosis is an infection brought about by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Many individuals who become infected do not have any symptoms. The reason for this is that the immune system could fight it off. Nevertheless, the condition can be dangerous among pregnant women and the fetus.
What are the causes?
- Accidental ingestion of the Toxoplasma gondii eggs from the ground or other soiled surfaces. This can happen if placing the hands to the mouth after touching anything that was exposed to cat feces, gardening or cleaning a cat’s litter box.
- Consumption of raw or poorly cooked meat particularly lamb, pork or venison as well as touching the hands to the mouth after directly handling meat.
If pregnant when initially infected with the parasite, the infection can affect the baby. The condition can also be passed on via an organ transplant or a transfusion, but these are considered rare.
What are the indications of toxoplasmosis?
Many individuals with toxoplasmosis do not have any symptoms. Once the symptoms arise, they are often flu-like in nature and can include muscle aches or swollen lymph glands that last for a few days up to several weeks.
In severe cases, it can result to damage to the eyes or the brain. As for infants who are infected before birth, they might be born with serious mental or physical issues.
Those who have weakened immune systems due to HIV, lymphoma or organ transplant medications can end up with a severe case of toxoplasmosis.
The severe symptoms tend to vary depending on the body part involved:
- Eye – eye pain and gradual loss of vision in one or both eyes
- Brain – sensory changes, seizures, mental and behavioral changes, weakness and movement issues.
- Lungs – breathing difficulties, fever, chills and cough that causes chest wall pain, weakness and fatigue
- Heart – erratic heartbeat, indications of pericarditis and heart failure
In an individual who is healthy and not pregnant, treatment is not required. The symptoms of toxoplasmosis typically settle in a few weeks.
As for women who are pregnant or those who have declining immune systems, certain medications are given to manage the condition.