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Intestinal worms – a problem in hair loss?

Two or three generations ago it was routine practice for mothers to ‘worm’ their families – particularly the children. In modern times, both ‘worming’ or discussion about intestinal worm infestation (1) is a rare topic.

Intestinal worm infestation (aka: Helminthiasis) is a common occurrence in people of 3rd world countries – and in some instances – are thought to be of benefit to their host (2).

Intestinal worms – also known as ‘helminths’ are macro-parasites, meaning they can be visually seen without microscopy.

How we become infected:

  • Consuming unwashed, contaminated raw vegetables or seafood products.
  • Under-cooked meats (of any species – but particularly game) which is contaminated with worm larvae.
  • Drinking or swimming in infected waters, particularly in countries where local sanitation, water purifying or community hygiene is less than optimal.
  • Close, personal contact with an infected other via ‘faecal-oral’ route (ie: personal contact between adult and child).
  • Some forms of worm or larvae can enter our body through bare skin – usually through bare feet walking in infected soils. A class of roundworm (termed: Strongyloides stercoralis)is one example.
  • From our pets – dogs, cats or stock animals (termed: Zoonotic transmission) – predominantly roundworm, hookworm or tapeworm. Animal pinworm tends to not infect humans.

How helminth worm infestation affects our health:

Helminths have the capacity to inhabit any organ, body system or body cavity (3), so symptoms may differ according to the organ infested. The more common symptoms are:

  • Diarrhoea (or constipation ‘with overflow’ if infestation is severe enough to cause bowel blockage); abdominal pain (sometimes), bloating, burping or flatulence.  
  • Lethargy, general malaise and weakness leading to chronic fatigue.
  • Joint or muscle aching or pain.
  • Increased hunger but contradictory weight loss, malabsorption/malnutrition.
  • Skin irritation or (sometimes severe) itching around the anus or female genitalia. Other skin lesions may present as red, blotchy areas – often mistaken for other scaling conditions (5).
  • Anxiety caused by sleep disturbance, teeth grinding; mental ‘fog’.
  • Hookworms may cause iron deficiency anaemia in susceptible individuals (4)
  • In immuno-compromised, frail or elderly people untreated helminth infections can be fatal.

Almost ALL of the above symptoms have the potential to cause scalp hair loss or alopecia areata in genetically predisposed individuals.

Treatment for intestinal worms:

Once helminth infection is diagnosed (or patient symptoms strongly suggest infection), appropriate anti-helminthic medication prescribed by your doctor or pharmacist (6) will eradicate intestinal worms within a few days. Sometimes a ‘larvae hatch’ follow-up dose of an anti-helminthic is also suggested.

An experienced Trichologist can also assist you with information regarding helminthiasis and the treatment of any scalp hair loss it may be causing.

  1. Roundworm, pinworm (aka: threadworm), hookworm, whipworm, flatworm and trematodes (aka: intestinal ‘flukes’).
  2. Those with helminthiasis are thought to be less ‘at risk’ for Coeliac disease and have been utilised medically to help lower an overactive immune system.
  3. Heart, brain, lungs, liver, kidneys, bladder, digestive tract are the more common areas.
  4. Hookworms attach to the intestinal villi of the gut, feeding and replicating from the host’s blood.
  5. Psoriasis, Seborrhoeic dermatitis or zinc deficiency.
  6. Whilst a course of anti-helminthics is unlikely to cause harm, it’s never a wise idea to self-diagnose and self-medicate.

Copyright 2023 – Anthony Pearce.


Anthony Pearce offers personal online consultations for domestic AND international clients.