Chagas disease has two stages. In the acute phase, which occurs in the first few weeks after infection, a person may experience no symptoms. If they do experience symptoms, they are likely to be mild and similar to those of a flu.
Symptoms to look out for include:
These symptoms are a reaction to the parasite circulating in the body.
Some children may also experience symptoms called Romaña’s sign during the acute phase. This is a swelling of the eyelid due to infection in or near the eye.
Once this phase is over, the infection will enter the chronic phase. During the chronic phase, the symptoms will improve on their own, as the number of parasites will naturally lower without treatment.
However, the infection is still present in the body. It poses a greater risk in the chronic stage, as there is no cure.
Even in chronic cases, people may never have other symptoms. However, the CDC note that 20–30% of people may experience severe cardiac and gastrointestinal signs and symptoms years later, including:
- an enlarged heart
- irregular heart rhythms
- thinning in the colon
- thinning in the esophagus
These complications can be serious or fatal, so it is vital to see a doctor if a person suspects Chagas disease.
Successfully treating Chagas disease during the acute phase is the only way to prevent the chronic phase and the potential for these issues.
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