If you're healthy, you probably won't know you've contracted toxoplasmosis. Some people, however, develop signs and symptoms similar to those of the flu, including:
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
In people with weakened immune systems
If you have HIV/AIDS, are receiving chemotherapy or have recently had an organ transplant, a previous toxoplasma infection may reactivate. In that case, you're more likely to develop signs and symptoms of severe infection, including:
- Poor coordination
- Lung problems that may resemble tuberculosis or Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia, a common opportunistic infection that occurs in people with AIDS
- Blurred vision caused by severe inflammation of your retina (ocular toxoplasmosis)
If you become infected for the first time just before or during your pregnancy, you can pass the infection to your baby (congenital toxoplasmosis), even if you don't have signs and symptoms yourself.
Your baby is most at risk of contracting toxoplasmosis if you become infected in the third trimester and least at risk if you become infected during the first trimester. On the other hand, the earlier in your pregnancy the infection occurs, the more serious the outcome for your baby.
Many early infections end in stillbirth or miscarriage. Children who survive are likely to be born with serious problems, such as:
- An enlarged liver and spleen
- Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- Severe eye infections
Only a small number of babies who have toxoplasmosis show signs of the disease at birth. Often, infected children don't develop signs and symptoms — including hearing loss, mental disability or serious eye infections — until their teens or later.
When to see a doctor
If you are living with HIV or AIDS or are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about being tested.
The signs and symptoms of severe toxoplasmosis — blurred vision, confusion, loss of coordination — require immediate medical care, particularly if your immune system has been weakened.
July 24, 2014
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- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Diagnosis and management of foodborne illnesses: A primer for physicians and other health care professionals. MMWR Recommendations and Reports. 2004;53:1. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5304a1.htm. Accessed April 21, 2014.
- Guerina NG, et al. Congenital toxoplasmosis: Clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 21, 2014.
- Guerina NG, et al. Congenital toxoplasmosis: Treatment, outcome and prevention. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 21, 2014.
- Park Y-H, et al. Clinical features and treatment of ocular toxoplasmosis. Korean Journal of Parasitology. 2013;51:393.
- Gilbert R, et al. Toxoplasmosis and pregnancy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed April 21, 2014.
- Toxoplasmosis: Pregnant women. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/pregnant.html. Accessed April 21, 2014.
- Heller HM. Toxoplasmosis in HIV infected patients. http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/gen_info/pregnant.html. Accessed April 21, 2014.
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