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Cysticercosis is an infection by a parasite called Taenia solium (T. solium), a pork tapeworm, that creates cysts in different areas in the body.
See also: Teniasis
- Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Cysticercosis is caused by swallowing eggs from T. solium, which are found in contaminated food. Autoinfection is when a person is already infected with adult T. solium, then swallows eggs following improper hand washing after a bowel movement.
Risk factors include eating pork, fruits, and vegetables contaminated with T. solium as a result of unhealthy cooking preparation. The disease can also be spread by contact with infected people or fecal matter.
The disease is rare in the United States, but is common in many developing countries.
Most often, the worms stay in muscles and do not cause symptoms.
Symptoms that do occur depend on where the infection is found:
- Signs and tests
Treatment may involve:
- Medications to kill the parasites (antiparasitic treatments)
- Powerful anti-inflammatories (steroids) to reduce swelling
If the cyst is in the eye or the brain, steroids may be started a few days before other medicines to avoid problems caused by swelling during antiparasitic treatment.
Sometimes surgery may be needed to remove the infected area.
- Expectations (prognosis)
The outlook is generally good, unless the lesion has caused blindness, heart failure, or brain damage. These are rare complications.
- Blindness, decreased vision
- Heart failure or abnormal rhythm
- Seizures, increased pressure in the brain
- Calling your health care provider
If you have any symptoms of cysticercosis, contact your health care provider.
Avoid unclean foods, don't eat uncooked foods while traveling, and always wash fruits and vegetables well.
Review Date: 1/22/2008
Reviewed By: Kenneth M. Wener, MD, Department of Infectious Diseases, Lahey Clinic, Burlington, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.