Medical Dictionary

Schistosomiasis - Medical

Schistosomiasis: Diseases of liver, gastrointestinal tract and bladder caused by schistosomes, trematode worms that parasitize people. Infection is from infested water.

There are three main species of these trematode worms (flukes) --Schistosoma haematobium, S. japonicum, and S. mansoni -- that cause disease in humans. The larval forms of the parasite live in freshwater snails. The cercaria (form of the parasite) is liberated from the snail burrow into skin, transforms to the schistosomulum stage, and migrates to the urinary tract (S. haematobium), liver or intestine (S. japonicum, S.mansoni) where the adult worms develop. Eggs are shed into the urinary tract or the intestine and hatch to form miracidia (yet another form of the parasite) which then infect snails, completing the life cycle of the parasite.

Adult schistosome worms can cause very serious tissue damage. Some schistosomes which cannot live within man nonetheless cause swimmer's itch.

Schistosomiasis is also called bilharzia after the shortlived German physician Theodor Bilharz (1825-1862).


Last Editorial Review: 4/27/2011 5:27:15 PM

Medical Author:

Alan Rockoff, MD

Alan Rockoff, MD

Dr. Rockoff received his undergraduate degree from Yeshiva College with the distinction of Summa Cum Laude. He received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. His internship and two years of Pediatric residency were at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, followed by training in Dermatology at the combined residency program at Tufts and Boston Universities. Dr. Rockoff is certified by both the American Board of Dermatology and the American Board of Pediatrics.

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Medical Author:

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.

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Medical Editor:

William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Can Stress Cause a Rash?

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

Q: Before my wedding, before job interviews, and anytime I have a bit of stress, my arms, wrists, and hands break out in an itchy rash. Can stress cause a rash? How do I prevent this from occurring, and how do I treat it?

A: Stress is one of the known triggers of hives, an outbreak of raised, red spots (or welts) on the skin that often itch. Hives are usually indicative of an allergic reaction, but they can also occur as a result of sun or cold exposure, infections, excessive perspiration, and emotional stress. It is not known exactly why stress may precipitate an outbreak of hives, but it is likely related to the known effects of stress on the immune system. The medical term for hives is urticaria.

Learn more about how stress affects the skin »


Top Searched Itch Terms:

jock itch, rectal itch, swimmer's itch, ringworm, herpes, tinea cruris, body rash, dry skin, alopecia areata, pubic lice, lichenification, scabies

Itching (itch) facts

  • The medical term for itching is pruritus.
  • Infections, bites and stings, infestations, chronic diseases, sun exposure, and dry skin are among the numerous causes of itching.
  • Anti-itch creams and lotions containing camphor, menthol, phenol, pramoxine (Caladryl, Tronolane), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), or benzocaine can bring relief.
  • Some cases of itching will respond to corticosteroid medications.
  • It is best to avoid scratching and itch when possible to avoid worsening of the condition and disruption of the skin that could lead to bacterial infection.
  • If itching persists with time or worsens, or is associated with skin lesions, consulting a health-care practitioner is advisable.

What is an itch?

Itch is an irritation in the skin that elicits an urge to scratch. Itches are a common problem and can be localized (limited to one area of the body) or generalized (occurring all over the body or in several different areas). In some cases, itching may be worse at night. The medical term for itching is pruritus.

Generalized itch is often more difficult to treat than localized itch. Itches can also occur with or without skin lesions (bumps, blisters, or abnormalities that can be seen on the skin). An itch that is accompanied by a visible skin abnormality usually should be evaluated by a physician and, in some cases, by a dermatologist since the problem is likely to be a condition that requires specialized medical treatment (for example, eczema, scabies, etc.).

What causes itching?

Itching can be caused by many conditions. A common cause of itch is psychological, that is, due to stress, anxiety, etc. Stress also can aggravate itch from other causes. Dry skin (xerosis) is another frequent cause of itch. Many people also report sunburn itch following prolonged exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Other causes of generalized itching that may not produce a rash or specific skin changes include metabolic and endocrine disorders (for example, liver or kidney disease, hyperthyroidism), cancers (for example, lymphoma), reactions to drugs, and interruptions in bile flow (cholestasis), diseases of the blood (for example, polycythemia vera). Itching is common with allergic reactions. Itching can also result from insect stings and bites such as from mosquito or flea bites.

Infections and infestations of the skin are another cause of itch. Genital itching, which may accompany burning and pain, in men and women can occur as a result of genital infections such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Vaginal itching is sometimes referred to as feminine itching, and sexually transmitted diseases can also cause anal itching. Other common infectious causes of itch include a fungal infection of the crotch (tinea cruris) commonly known as jock itch, psoriasis, and ringworm of the body (tinea corporis), as well as vaginal itching (sometimes referred to as feminine itching) and/or anal itching from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or other types of infections, such as vaginal yeast infections. Another type of parasitic infection resulting in itch is the so-called swimmer's itch. Swimmer's itch, also called cercarial dermatitis, is a skin rash caused by an allergic reaction to infection with certain parasites of birds and mammals that are released from infected snails in fresh and saltwater. Itch may also result from skin infestation by body lice, including head lice and pubic lice. Scabies is a highly contagious skin condition caused by an infestation by the itch mite Sarcoptes scabiei that is known to cause an intense itch that is particularly severe at night.

Itching can also result from conditions that affect the nerves, such as diabetes, shingles (herpes zoster), or multiple sclerosis. Irritation of the skin from contact with fabrics, cosmetics, or other substances can lead to itching that may be accompanied by rash. Reactions to drugs or medications can also result in widespread itching that may be accompanied by a rash or hives. Sometimes women report that they experience generalized itching during pregnancy or a worsening of the conditions that normally cause itching.

Most people who have itching, however, do not have a serious underlying condition.


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Date 24 - 03 - 2012
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