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Cysticercosis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About cysticercosis

Cysticercosis is a long-standing parasitic infection which may affect intestines and extra-intestinal sites. It is caused by larva of parasite Taenia solium which is a pork tapeworm. The adult worms of Taenia solium results in only intestinal infection by ingestion of contaminated pork and this infection is called ‘taeniasis’. However larvae of Taenia solium also affect other areas of body like brain, heart, muscles and eyes and called ‘cysticercosis’.

Cysticercosis: Incidence, age and sex

Cysticercosis is usually seen in places where sanitation practices are poor and hygiene is inadequate. Cysticercosis may be commonly encountered in some places of Africa and Asia. It may affect individuals of any age group.

Signs and symptoms of cysticercosis: Diagnosis

Cysticercosis has a varied presentation which may differ from person to person. Some individuals may remain symptomatic whereas some may manifest clinical features which result from cysts formation in the affected parts of body. The most commonly afflicted site is the brain where cysts in the brain result in increased intracranial pressure, altered mental status or seizures. Neurocysticercosis is the name given to such characteristic brain lesions by larva of Taenia solium. Lesion in the eyes may result in the impairment of vision. Occasionally, cysts may also form in heart causing abnormal rhythm and or even heart failure.

This infection can be diagnosed by a stool test which may show eggs of ‘Taenia’. Blood tests may detect specific antibodies against this parasite. However, the most reliable test to establish the diagnosis is a CT or an MRI scan of the affected area which may help in detecting the lesions.

Causes and prevention of cysticercosis

Cysticercosis is caused by larva of parasite Taenia solium which reaches the body by ingesting contaminated water or food especially pork. This infection spreads by faeco-oral route, thus causing increased chances of auto-infection.

Certain preventive measures like maintaining good personal hygiene, adequate sanitation, washing fruits and vegetables before eating and refraining from consumption of unclean food may go a long way in averting cysticercosis infection. Individuals from developed countries may get this infection while travelling through some places of Africa and Asia where cysticercosis is prevalent.

Cysticercosis: Complications

Cysticersosis is a serious infection which may result in life-threatening health hazards like blindness, brain damage and heart failure.

Cysticercosis: Treatment

This parasitic infection needs comprehensive evaluation by a specialist to detect afflicted areas of body. Medication like Praziquantel is generally prescribed in affected individuals. This medication is anti parasitic in effect and helps to eliminate the offending parasite from body. Neurocysticercosis is a grave problem which may require additional medications in the form of steroids to provide symptomatic relief. Anti-convulsants may be given to the individual if he/she experiences any episode of seizures. Generally, surgery plays no role in management of cysticercosis. However in rare instances, where obstructive hydrocephalus is noted, surgical intervention may be considered.