Cysticercosis

Toggle: English / Spanish

Definition

Cysticercosis is an infection by a parasite called Taenia solium (T. solium). It is a  pork tapeworm that creates cysts in different areas in the body.

Alternative Names

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Cysticercosis is caused by swallowing eggs from T. solium, which are found in contaminated food. You can also become infected if you have the adult T. solium, in your system then swallow the eggs if you have not properly washed your hands after a bowel movement. You can get the condition if you eat pork, fruits, and vegetables contaminated with T. solium which have not been well cooked or cleaned. The disease can also be spread by contact with infected feces.

The disease is rare in the United States. It is common in many developing countries.

Symptoms

Most often, the worms stay in muscles and do not cause symptoms.

Symptoms that do occur depend on where the infection is found in the body:

  • Brain -- or symptoms similar to those of a
  • Eyes -- decreased vision or blindness
  • Heart -- abnormal heart rhythms or heart failure (rare)
  • Spine -- weakness or changes in walking due to damage to nerves in the spine

Signs and tests

Tests that may be done include:

  • Blood tests to detect antibodies to the parasite
  • Biopsy of the affected area
  • scan, scan, or to detect the lesion
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture)
  • Test in which an ophthalmologist looks inside the fundus of the eye

Treatment

Treatment may involve:

  • ·   Medicines to kill the parasites (antiparasitic treatments such as albendazole or praziquantel)
  • ·   Powerful anti-inflammatory medications (steroids) to reduce swelling

If the cyst is in the eye or brain, steroids should be started a few days before other medicines. This is to avoid problems caused by swelling during antiparasitic treatment. Not all patients benefit from antiparasitic treatment.

Sometimes surgery may be needed to remove the infected area.

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

The outlook good, unless the lesion has caused blindness, heart failure, or brain damage. These are rare complications.

Complications

  • Blindness, decreased vision
  • Heart failure or abnormal heart rhythm
  • Hydrocephalus (fluid build-up in part of the brain, often with increased pressure)
  • Seizures

Calling your health care provider

If you have any symptoms of cysticercosis, contact your health care provider.

Prevention

Avoid unclean foods, do not eat uncooked foods while traveling, and always wash fruits and vegetables well.

References

White AC Jr., Brunetti E. Cysticercosis. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 362.

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 1/29/2013
  • Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch)

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2013 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

This page was last updated: May 20, 2014

         
Average rating (13)