Ivermectin is a broad-spectrum antiparasitic medication often used to treat parasitic worm infestations in animals and humans. In humans, ivermectin is most often used to treat threadworm, or strongyloidiasis, infestation and river blindness, or onchocerciasis. It's also sometimes prescribed to treat other parasitic infestations, including scabies, lice, and roundworm. In animals, especially dogs and cats, ivermectin is often used to treat and prevent heartworm, and to treat ear mites and some types of mange. Like most other prescription drugs, ivermectin can have drug interactions, contraindications, and side effects.
Strongyloidiasis is a parasitic infestation of threadworms. Threadworms usually access the body by burrowing through the skin, making their way through the muscle tissue to the bronchial tubes, and then entering the gastrointestinal tract through the esophagus. Rarely, threadworm infestations can occur in other parts of the body, including the uterus, lungs, and liver.
These infestations can be very difficult to treat, especially in children, because the risks of reinfection are often high. Usually, one dose of ivermectin is taken to treat threadworm. If additional doses are needed, they are generally administered three, six, or 12 months after the initial dose.
River blindness, also known as onchocerciasis, generally spreads through the bites of blackflies. It occurs mostly in tropical African countries, though this infestation has been known to occur in the tropical nations of Central and South America as well. River blindness can damage the skin so badly as to disfigure its victims, and is believed to be the second most common cause of infectious blindness in the world. Doctors generally monitor their patients' progress during treatment by examining a series of stool samples. The results of these tests can tell the doctor how well treatment is working and how long it needs to continue.
Heartworm in dogs can be treated and prevented by administering ivermectin. Sarcoptic, demodectic, and notoedric mange can also be treated. Ivermectin may be used to treat ear mites in both cats and dogs. Side effects in animals are generally rare, and, when they do occur, are usually mild.
Ivermectin dosages for humans and animals are usually determined based on body weight. Side effects of ivermectin usage in humans can include diarrhea, vomiting, weakness, dizziness, and uncontrollable shaking. Ivermectin can interact with certain drugs, including those used to treat mental illness, anxiety, and muscle spasms. Patients are generally advised to discuss their use of prescription and non-prescription drugs, medical history, and use of alcohol before taking ivermectin.