Pinworms are thin, white roundworms that are about as long as a staple and can live in your rectum and colon. If you are infected, the female pinworm will leave your intestine through your anus and lay her eggs on the skin around it.
An infection of pinworms causes itching in the area of your anus and can result in restlessness and sleeping difficulty. Symptoms are usually mild.
Pinworms are transmitted through fecal-to-oral contamination. It may be a direct transfer of eggs from your hands or fingers, or indirectly through food, clothing, bedding or personal articles. In some cases, the eggs can become airborne and can be breathed in.
Pinworms can sometimes be seen, particularly at night, when the female leaves your rectum to lay eggs. A piece of adhesive tape pressed to the skin around your anus will pick up the eggs, which can be examined under a microscope.
Pinworms may be treated with a prescription medication that is given in two doses, one immediately and another two weeks later. All members of a household should be treated. Bedding, towels, pajamas and underclothing should be washed in hot water.
Good hygiene habits, including thorough hand washing, can help prevent the infection and reinfection of pinworms. Fingernails should be kept clean and short.
Pinworms occur most commonly in preschoolers and schoolchildren, people in institutions and those who are caring for someone with a pinworm infection.