Navigate Up

Men's Center - A-Z Index

#
Q
Y
Z

Print This Page

Cysticercosis

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.

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 -- seizures or symptoms similar to those of a brain tumor
  • 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
  • CT scan, MRI scan, or x-rays 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.

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.

Updated: 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.


©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com