Tapeworms are flat-shaped worms which live in the intestines of animals. People can be affected by tapeworms by eating the undercooked meat of infected animals. Animals will be infested with the parasite while grazing or drinking contaminated water. There will be few symptoms in human-beings and the infestation can be treated very easily. However, if the treatment is not provided in time, it will lead to a life-threatening issue. You should be aware of the symptoms and should undergo the right treatment to overcome the infection.
It is not very uncommon that most of the tapeworm infected people will not show symptoms. If you are suffering from an infection, the symptoms will depend on the type of tapeworm that you are affected by. If you are suffering from invasive tapeworm, the symptoms are based on the location (or presence) of the larvae in the body.
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Craving for salt
- Weight loss
- Difficulty in absorbing the nutrients from the body
- General weakness
The invasive infection will take place if the larvae migrate to other parts of the body from the intestines. It will lead to the formation of cysts. In this process, either the tissue or the organ damage will take place.
The following symptoms are prominent:
- A headache
- Mass or lump
- Allergic reaction
- Neurological symptoms
You should be aware of the causes of tapeworm infestation. The infestation is caused by either eggs or larvae.
- Infestation through eggs – If the food or water source is contaminated with the faeces of the infected person or animal, you will contact the tapeworm infection.
The faeces released by the animal may be contacted by the food or water source. As you eat the infected food, you will get the infection. If the eggs are inside the intestine, they may travel to other parts of the body and formation of cysts will take place. For example, the cysts may be formed in the liver, lungs and other organs of the body.
- Infestation through larvae – The infestation may also take place through the larvae. If an animal is infected with tapeworm, the larvae will be present in its tissues. The larvae will be ingested into your body if you eat the undercooked meat of the infected animal. The larvae will develop into adult tapeworm when you eat the meat. The length of the adult tapeworms will be more than 25 meters. They have the capability to survive for up to 30 years in the human body. Some tapeworms will be attached to the intestines and some will be exit through the stool.
You should be aware of the causes and risk factors of tapeworms.
- Poor personal hygiene – The contaminated water may reach your mouth due to infrequent washing or bathing.
- Exposure to animals – If you are living in an area where human and animal faeces are not being disposed of properly, there will be a great risk of contamination.
- Poor sanitation practices – If your travel to countries where the sanitation practices are poor.
- Raw eggs and uncooked meat – The risk perception is high by eating raw eggs or uncooked meat or semi-cooked meat.
You should be aware of symptoms of tapeworm infestations and the complications arising out of the infestation.
- Blockage of the appendix – If the size of tapeworms is high they can block the appendix. It is an infection should be attended on an emergency basis. The infection may affect the bile duct or pancreatic duct. The bile duct will carry the bile to the intestines.
- Impairment of brain and central nervous system – There will be a headache and visual impairment through the presence of poke tapeworm. The other issues that lead to serious health complications include seizures, dementia, meningitis, and visual impairment. If the infection is severe it will lead to death as well.
- Disruption of organ function – The functioning of various organs such as liver and lungs will be affected by the formation of cysts. If the cysts are large enough, it will lead to the restricted blood supply. It may lead to additional cysts as well with the rupture of larvae. There will be the allergy-like situation with the rupture or leakage of the cyst. The other symptoms include itching, hives, swelling and difficulty in breathing. If the issue is severe, it will lead to breathing difficulty and surgery as well.
The diagnosis of tapeworms will be done through the blood test, stool test and certain kinds of scans. The signs and symptoms are prominent in the eyes, muscles, and brain.
- Blood test – The antibodies should produce to fight the tapeworm infestation in the best possible way. It can be checked through the blood test.
- Imaging systems – By applying the imaging solutions such as CT scan, MRI scan, X-rays or ultrasounds of cysts, it is possible to figure out the tapeworm infection.
- Stool sample – The doctor will check the stool and a stool sample will be sent to the lab. The presence of eggs or larvae will be identified through the microscopic examination. As the passage of eggs will be different at various points in time, it is necessary to conduct tests at various intervals. The patient might want to go through two or more tests as well. A transparent adhesive might be pasted to the anus to collect the eggs in a very efficient manner.
- Without medication - In most of the cases, no specific treatment is required to overcome the tapeworm in infection. The tapeworms will be expelled from the body automatically.
- With medication - If you are affected by tapeworms, you can undergo the medication through which the infection can be overcome very easily. The medication is based on the type of tapeworm and the area of infestation.
- Oral medication – The following oral medication will be prescribed by doctors to overcome adult tapeworm infection:
The above drugs are used to treat the adult tapeworms.
- Sample test after the treatment – The doctor will suggest a test after undergoing the medication. If the stool is free from tapeworm eggs, larvae or proglottids, it will be concluded that you are free from tapeworms.
- Albendazole (Albenza) – By using Anthelmintic drugs, the cysts’ size will diminish. The assessment will be done by undergoing the ultrasound or X-ray test.
- Corticosteroid medication – To reduce the inflammation of cysts or organs, the doctor may suggest corticosteroid medication such as prednisone or dexamethasone.
- Anti-seizure drugs – If the patient is suffering from seizures, the doctor will prescribe anti-epileptic medication.
- Shunt – The placement of the permanent tube in the head is called a shunt. The tube will be used to drain the excess fluid formed in the brain.
- Surgical procedure – If the organ function is affected it will be handled by the surgical procedure. The most possible organs affected by surgery include the eyes, liver and lungs.
- As prevention is better than cure, you should take the following steps to overcome the tapeworm infection.
- You should wash your hands after using the toilet.
- After visiting the public places or public transport, you should wash your hands and feet.
- If you are using fruits and vegetables procured from tapeworm-infected areas, you should wash them and cook them thoroughly. If you are using unsafe water, you should not forget to boil them for at least one minute.
- The animal and human faeces should be disposed of properly so that animals and human beings are not affected.
- To kill the tapeworm eggs, you should freeze the meat for at least one week to ten days so that the tapeworm will be killed without any issues.
- You should avoid eating uncooked or raw fish or meat.
- If your pets are infected by tapeworms, they should be treated properly.
- You can avoid cross-contamination by cooking the meat separately from other kinds of food items.
- You should disinfect the cutting boards, kitchen utensils and kitchen countertops.
- You should not consume freshwater plants in the raw form
- You should not walk barefoot in tapeworm-infested areas
- You should wash and peel the raw vegetables and fruits before consumption. If you suspect food is contaminated with faeces, you should avoid the same.
If you find symptoms which are similar to those listed above, you should consult your physician. The physician will check for symptoms and will suggest the necessary tests to figure out the issue. After the diagnosis, the right kind of treatment will be offered.
- As the tapeworm infection in serious form will lead life-threatening case, you should be cautious in undergoing the treatment at the most appropriate time.
- If you are suffering from severe tapeworm infection, it will take a long time to recover from the infection.
- A person with a compromised immune system will take a long time to overcome the tapeworm infection.
- If parasites infect other parts of the body, you might want to undergo the surgery.
- In some cases, the diagnosis will be difficult and the issue will be traced after several kinds of tests. Even though blood tests are applied to diagnose the infection, it may not give the accurate picture of the condition.
- If surgery remains the only option, the confirmation will be done after conducting the tests in the laboratory.
- The symptoms may appear many months or years after the infection. It will lead to the swelling of the brain.
As prevention is better than cure, you should take all possible steps to avoid the tapeworm infestations.
Myth #1: It is not possible to expect a full recovery
It is possible to expect a full recovery in a few days to a few weeks. If the infection is severe, the recovery period will be long. If you manage a poor immune system, the recovery rate will be slow. People suffering from existing health condition will take more time than healthy people to recover from the infection.
Myth #2: You can stop the medication if you feel better
After starting the medication, you should continue the same until the completion of the course. Even though you feel better after using the drug for a few days, the course should not discontinue. Even though the medication goes for several weeks, you should not stop abruptly.
Myth #3: Endoscopy cannot be applied
If the doctor finds it difficult to trace the presence of tapeworm through the stool test or X-ray, the endoscopy or colonoscopy will be suggested. The other causes of symptoms can be eliminated in the best possible way.
Myth #4: Tapeworms will not spread by drinking contaminated water
Tapeworm infection will spread by drinking contaminated water or food. Hence, you should opt for food prepared in hygienic conditions. The source of food, water and the preparation process will also play a huge role in spreading the infection.
Myth #5: You are not required to wash your hands after using the toilet
You will want to wash your hands and feet after using the toilet. If you are travelling to developing counties, you should be extremely vigilant in using the public toilets.
Myth #6: Lesion present in the brain will be treated with surgery
Not all kinds of legions will be treated with surgery. If there is only one legion it will not be treated with surgery. However, multiple legions will be treated with surgery. Anti-parasitic treatment will be applied if the legion is only one or less serious.
Tapeworm infection will have a great impact on your health. Hence, you should take all possible preventive steps by avoiding the contact with the infected persons. The places, food and water infected by the tapeworm should be avoided. If you find any symptoms, you should not hesitate to visit the doctor at the earliest. The physician will prescribe the treatment as per the type of infection and severity of the infection.
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