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A day in the life of a patient suffering from Dracunculiasis (Guinea-worm disease)

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It found it very strange when the doctor told me I was suffering from Dracunculiasis. The symptoms did seem as if a Dracula had taken control of my life. However, what appeared strange about it was this disease has been on the verge of eradication, and could affect someone only due to drinking contaminated water. The cause is a parasyte called Dracunculus medinensis. Needless to say, I have always been careful about what I eat and drink. That is why this diagnosis came as a big surprise and a shock to me. Here is how my life has been since the diagnosis of Guineea worm disease was made.

Waking up in the morning

Dracunculiasis, more commonly called the Guinea-worm disease, has made my mornings miserable. The worst thing about getting up in the morning is the sight of these parasites coming out from my soles. It is the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life. And, I have to bear with it every day because these sympthoms are not disminish even I use a good treatment.

These parasites migrate through the host’s tissues and finally, emerge from the soles of the feet. It also leaves blisters and ulcers at the site. So, I usually wake up in the morning with this weird sensation of the parasites emerging out of my soles and the pain caused due to ulcers.

Starting the day

You can imagine how difficult it must be for me to walk when there are ulcers and blisters on my soles. I have to apply a bandage before putting my feet on the ground. But, the pain is so intense that it doesn’t allow me to perform simple tasks like taking a bath and brushing my teeth easily.

Dracunculiasis is caused due to the Dracunculus medinensis, which is the largest of the parasites affecting humans. I suppose this is where its longer duration of incubation and symptoms come from. Every day, I get up with severe body aches and joint pains. Though the other symptoms are much less now including headache, vomiting, and loose motions, the weakness is too severe to bear.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner

I suffer from nausea, and vomiting throughout the day. The symptoms of Guineea worm disease are more severe in the morning, even I take my treatment regulary. Though their frequency has reduced to some extent, they have not resolved completely. It is the nausea that bothers me more than vomiting. I do not feel like eating or drinking anything. I have limited my meals to a piece of bread, biscuits, or toast. I try to drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration caused due to vomiting and loose motions.

Going to work and the treatment

The ulcers on my soles do not let me walk around in my house. So, the question of going to work does not arise. I will have to wait for a few more weeks before I can recover completely to join my work. I will also have to wait for the ulcers and blisters to heal to be able to travel to my workplace. I have taken a leave of almost 2 months. This forced leave has already affected my career. There is no specific pharmaceutical medicine or vaccine to treat this disease.

However, I take proper care of the wounds that are caused at the site from where the parasites come out of the body. Immersing my feet in the cold water gives some amount of relief from the burning pain caused due to the blisters, and ulcers. I keep the ulcerated part clean and use a treatment with local antibiotics to avoid re-infections. There is very little I can do other than following these measures to speed up my recovery.

Prevention of complications

The best way to prevent the other members in my family from getting this infection is to clean and bandage the affected skin area regularly. We are also trying to create awareness in the neighborhood by advising people to avoid drinking contaminated water and wading feet into the water. These are also the basic guidelines issued by the public health authorities to eradicate this disease. These measures will protect me, my family, and those in my neighborhood also against this infection.

What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?

My daily activities have been limited to moving about from the bed to the bathroom or the dining area. I cannot walk much due to the painful ulcers on my soles. So, I prefer to sit at one place and avoid walking. I spend my days reading books or watching television. However, this has caused a lot of inconvenience for me as well as my family members. I have to depend on them for small things like getting me a cup of tea. They too have to leave aside their work to help me out. This infection has also posed a risk for my job. A long leave is definitely not recommended as it can affect my chances of getting a promotion or pay hike. I also fear losing my job in case I am not able to resume within a month or so.

How does the future look like?

It gives me shudders when I think of what might happen in case I lose my job. I am reeling under the burden of mounting healthcare expenses. Losing my job would only add to our problems. Though Dracunculiasis is not known to cause fatal consequences, it has affected me a lot in terms of loss of freedom, dependency on others, the pain caused due to ulcers, and of course, the fears of losing my job!

What are the risk factors?

It seems Dracunculiasis affects the people in the rural, deprived communities who have to depend on open surface water sources like ponds for drinking water. Well… I live in a city and have always taken proper hygienic precautions. I might have contracted this infection while we were on vacation on countryside last year. Yes, last year! That’s possible because the doctor told me the symptoms of Dracunculiasis begin 8 to 10 months after the parasites have gained entry into the body.

The causes and evolution of Guineea worm disease

Dracunculiasis develops slowly after the initial exposure to the parasites and continues to cause symptoms for several weeks. The symptoms persist till the parasites are completely eliminated from the body. The doctor told me not to worry about any serious complications. However, the longer duration of this illness in itself is a major cause for worry.

What are the psychological effects when you have Dracunculiasis?

I have been spending sleepless nights since the day I was diagnosed with Dracunculiasis. I am confined to the bed for most times of the day. Though I avoid sleeping during daytime, I do take short naps due to which I cannot get a sound sleep at night. As a result, my biological clock has gone haywire. The lack of proper sleep has caused several psychological problems. I feel dull and depressed and have lost interest in doing any activity. If this continues, I fear I might fall into deep depression. I hope I recover from this illness and can continue with my previous routine faster.

Topics: Dracunculiasis

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Written by Dr. Jyothi Shenoy

Dr. Jyothi Shenoy is a doctor having a clinical experience of more than 15 years. She has an expertise in treating acute and chronic diseases like obesity, IBS, asthma, arthritis, Autism, ADHD, hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, allergies, cancer, infections, and skin diseases. She believes in treating the patients in a holistic manner. She aims at educating the patients about the illness and providing tips related to their lifestyle and diet to ensure a long-term relief from the disease and preventing its recurrence.