Enterobiasis, or pinworm infection as it is commonly called, is an intestinal infection caused by the parasitic roundworm called Enterobius vermicularis. The most common symptom of this irritating, but not particularly dangerous, disease is itching around the anal area.


The main symptom is itching around the anus. Because the itching intensifies at night, when the female worms comes to the anus to lay eggs, it often leads to disrupted sleep and irritability. Poor sleeping at night in small children can be related to pinworms. Occasionally, the itching causes some bleeding and bruising in the region, and secondary bacterial infections can occur. In females, the itching may spread to the vagina and sometimes causes an infection of the vaginal region (vaginitis). Enterobiasis usually lasts one to two months.


The disease can be prevented by treating all the infected cases and thus eliminating the source of infection. Some ways to keep from catching or spreading the disease include the following recommendations: * wash hands thoroughly before handling food and eating * keep finger nails short and clean * avoiding scratching the anal area * take early morning showers to wash away eggs deposited overnight * once the infection has been identified, and treatment is started, change the bed linen, night clothes, and underwear daily


First, a physician will rule out other potential causes of the itching, such as hemorrhoids, lice, or fungal or bacterial infection. Once these have been ruled out, an accurate diagnosis of enterobiasis will require that either the eggs or the adult worms are detected. Rarely, the adult worms are seen as thin, yellowish-white threads, about 0.4 in (1 cm) long, in the stools of the infected person. Usually, an hour or so after the individual goes to sleep, the adult female worms may be seen moving around laying eggs if a flashlight is shone at the rectal area.


Pinworms cause little damage and can be easily eradicated with proper treatment. Full recovery is expected.


In order to treat the disease, either mebendazole (Vermox) or pyrantel pamoate (Pin-X) will be given in two oral doses spaced two weeks apart. These medications eradicate the infection in approximately 90% of cases. Re-infection is common and several treatments may be required. Because the infection is easily spread through contact with contaminated clothing or surfaces, it is recommended that all family members receive the therapeutic dose. Sometimes a series of six treatments are given, each spaced two weeks apart. If family members continue to be infected, a source outside the house may be responsible.