Pinworms (Pinworm Infection in Children and Adults, Enterobiasis)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Pinworms (Enterobiasis) Infection

What Do Pinworms Look Like?

Pinworms are white, can be seen with the naked eye, and are about the length of a staple. At night, adult pinworms can sometimes be seen directly on the person's pajamas or around the anal area. The best time to look for pinworms is at night when the person wakes up due to itching in the anal/rectal. This sensation is likely caused by migrating female worms depositing eggs and irritating the skin.

Pinworms facts

  • Pinworm infections are caused by worm-like parasites that infect humans' intestines and rectal/anal areas.
  • Young children and their household members, including adults, are at risk for pinworm infections.
  • Pinworms are visible. They range in size from 2-13 mm, are white, and resemble a worm but the pinworm eggs are small, transparent and can be seen only with a microscope.
  • Pinworm infections are spread person-to-person by ingesting pinworm eggs that have contaminated fingers, bedding, clothing or other items.
  • The major signs and symptoms of pinworm infection are discomfort and itching in the anal/rectal area. Children especially will scratch the rectal/anal area, get eggs on their fingers or underneath their fingernails and transport the infective eggs to bedding, toys, other humans, or back to themselves.
  • Other signs and symptoms may include:
    • Discomfort in the anal and/or vaginal area
    • Rash or skin irritation around the anus or vagina
    • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping and/or restlessness due to irritation of skin
    • Pinworms can often be seen on the anal skin or in the stools, sometimes detected in the vagina and may produce some vaginal discharge
    • Some infected individuals may have abdominal pain.
    • Some infected individuals can get secondary bacterial infections from intense skin scratching.
    • Infrequent infection of the ureters and/or bladder may cause dysuria or bladder discomfort.
  • Pinworm eggs hatch into larval forms in the small intestine, and then progress to the large intestine where they mature, mate, and progress to the rectal/anal area where females deposit about 10 to 15 thousand eggs.
  • Diagnosis may be done by a "tape test" and/or by visualizing pinworms in the stools or on the skin near the anus or in the vagina.
  • Most primary care or pediatric doctors can diagnose and treat patients with pinworms.
  • Several drugs may cure a patient with pinworms when administered over time.
  • Natural and/or home remedies are available, but patients should check with their doctor before using them.
  • Good hygiene can help prevent pinworm infections.

Can humans get pinworms?

Pinworm infection is an infection of the large intestine and anal area by a small, white parasite that resembles a "worm." The medical name for the parasite is Enterobius vermicularis, but it is commonly termed a pinworm in both the lay and medical literature. These parasites are also termed seatworms or threadworms, and the infections is medically termed enterobiasis or helminthiasis. Pinworms and other parasitic worms (which, as a group, are termed helminths) feed off of the host animal by adsorbing nutrients from the host animal. Pinworm infections are the most common helminth infection that occurs in the US. Pinworms only infect humans. Dogs, cats, or other animals cannot become infected.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/27/2016

Subscribe to MedicineNet's Newsletters

Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!

By clicking Submit, I agree to the MedicineNet's Terms & Conditions & Privacy Policy and understand that I may opt out of MedicineNet's subscriptions at any time.

VIEW PATIENT COMMENTS
  • Pinworms - Experience

    Did more than one member of your family become infected with pinworms?

    Post View 10 Comments
  • Pinworms - Symptoms

    What symptoms did you experience with pinworm infection? Were you surprised by the diagnosis?

    Post View 1 Comment
  • Pinworms - Treatment

    What forms of treatment, including medication, did you or a relative receive for a pinworm infection?

    Post View 2 Comments
  • Pinworms - Natural and Home Remedes

    What natural or home remedies have you used to get rid of and cure pinworms?

    Post

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors