What’s Under Your Skin? Bugs That Burrow

Acanthamoeba

If you wear contact lenses, don’t wash them in tap water. You might pick up this bug, which can burrow into your eye and cause an infection called Acanthamoebakeratitis. Symptoms include redness, a feeling that something’s in your eye, and sensitivity to light. If it isn’t treated, you could lose your sight. It’s most common among contact lens wearers, but anyone can get the bug. It lives in bodies of water like lakes and oceans, and in soil and air.

Acanthamoeba

Loa Loa

This worm is a parasite that spreads through deer-fly bites. It burrows into your skin and causes itchy areas around your joints called Calabar swellings. It also leads to an infection called loiasis, or African eye worm. You may even see the worm as it crawls across the surface of your eye or under your skin. But you probably won’t get it unless you spend time in the rain forests of West and Central Africa.

Loa Loa

Chigoe Fleas

These bugs, known as sand fleas or jiggers, dig into your feet at the heel, sole, or toes. They cause a skin disease called tungiasis. You don’t feel it when they go in. But they grow up to 2,000 times bigger once inside your foot. This makes your skin itchy and irritated. Your foot may also swell and get ulcers. Some people get gangrene or tetanus. Chigoe fleas live in sandy, tropical places, and aren’t common in the United States.

Chigoe Fleas

Sparganum

This tapeworm can grow up to a foot long in your intestines. It’s rare for people to get it in the U.S., but animals can have it. Most human cases are in Southeast Asia. Sparganum can live almost anywhere inside your body for up to 20 years. The infection doesn’t usually cause symptoms, unless it’s in your brain. Then you can have weakness, a headache, numbness, tingling, or a seizure.

Sparganum

Filarial Worms

These squirmers are way too small to see without a microscope. You get them when an infected mosquito bites you. They live in your lymph system and cause a disease called lymphatic filariasis. It can lead to fever, swollen lymph nodes, and a buildup of fluid in your body. Most people never have any symptoms, though. The worms are most common in the tropics. They don’t affect people in the U.S.

Filarial Worms

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