Enterobiasis is a pinworm infection of the large intestine caused by Enterobiasis vernicularis. This is the most common worm infection in the United States. During the night, the female worms can move outside the body through the anus and lay eggs on an affected person’s skin. The pinworm eggs can then be transferred from the infected person’s skin to another person’s mouth, where they will hatch and grow in the colon. Pinworms typically grow in the colon for a month or two before the females begin to lay eggs. The eggs can survive for 2 to 3 weeks on non-biological surfaces, allowing for easy spread to other individuals. Humans are the only hosts of E. vernicularis, meaning that you can’t be infected from a pet or other environmental source. People most at risk for pinworm infection are kids, their caregivers, and institutionalized persons.
A person infected with pinworm will usually complain of an itchy anus. Children will often present as frequently scratching this region. Other potential symptoms include sleep disturbances, stomach pain, and skin infections due to scratching of the anal region. In some cases, the female reproductive tract may also be infected. Diagnosis of a pinworm infection can be made by finding eggs around the anal region during the night. Clear tape is sometimes placed against the anus and then inspected under a microscope to look for eggs.
Medication is available for treatment of enterobiasis. Members of the same household are often all treated because of the high likelihood of the spread of infection. To prevent pinworm, proper hand and body hygiene is key. To get rid of eggs faster, showering in the morning and changing underwear often is recommended. If you have a pinworm infection, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.