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Most people infected with Toxoplasma are asymptomatic. Those who develop symptoms usually have cervical lymph node swelling and flu-like symptoms that resolve in a few weeks or months without treatment. The organism remains in the body in a latent state and may reactivate if the person becomes immunocompromised. For example, patients with AIDS can develop lesions in the brain due to Toxoplasma reactivation. Chemotherapy patients can develop eye, heart (myocarditis), lung or brain involvement when parasites become reactivated. Congenital Toxoplasma infections can cause serious eye, ear, and brain damage at birth. However, congenital infections may be asymptomatic until the first few years of life or even until the second or third decade when eye (decreased vision or blindness), ear (hearing loss), or brain damage symptoms (encephalitis, seizures, mental-status changes) develop. Toxoplasmosis is the leading cause of chorioretinitis (inflammation of the retina and choroid of the eye) in the United States.
When to Seek Medical Care for Toxoplasmosis
Because the majority of people do not get symptoms with toxoplasmosis, most infected individuals do not seek medical care. However, people who develop enlarged cervical lymph nodes and develop a flu-like syndrome should consider seeking medical care if they have known or suspected contact with cats or cat-contaminated food. If women who are planning a pregnancy or are pregnant develop these symptoms, they should seek medical care. Immunocompromised individuals, especially those with HIV infection, should also seek medical care if the above-mentioned symptoms develop or if they develop new eye symptoms or mental-status changes.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2016
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