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Information from Your Family Doctor
Cysticercosis: What You Should Know
Am Fam Physician. 2007 Jul 1;76(1):98.See related article on cysticercosis.
What is cysticercosis?
Cysticercosis (sis-tuh-ser-KO-sis) is an infection caused by tapeworm eggs. When the eggs enter the body, they form cysts, usually in the brain, but sometimes in the muscles or eyes.
Who gets cysticercosis?
Anyone who is exposed to tapeworm eggs can be infected. It is common in some parts of the world like Mexico, Central and South America, and India. It is becoming more common in the United States.
The eggs that cause cysticercosis are passed through the bowel movements of a person infected with the tapeworm. If feces get on food, in water, or on your hands, the eggs can be swallowed. The eggs then hatch in the stomach, enter the blood through the intestines, and stick in the brain, muscles, or eyes.
How can my doctor tell if I have cysticercosis?
Cysticercosis can cause seizures, confusion, blurred or double vision, and lumps under the skin. But other diseases can also cause these symptoms. Your doctor can do different tests depending on your symptoms. Your doctor may want to scan your brain or have an eye doctor check your vision.
How is cysticercosis treated?
Your doctor may give you medicine to kill the cysts and stop the swelling. Some people need surgery. Not all people who have cysticercosis need to be treated.
What can I expect?
In some people, the symptoms go away. Other people need to take medicine for the rest of their lives. Some people die from cysticercosis.
How can I prevent cysticercosis?
Do not eat raw or undercooked pork. Do not eat any pork that is likely to be infected. Wash your hands with soap and water after bowel movements and before handling food. Wash raw fruits and vegetables. If you travel to a place where cysticercosis is common, only drink bottled or boiled water, or other bottled beverages.
Where can I get more information?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Web site: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/index.htm; click on cysticercosis
This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at http://familydoctor.org.
This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.
Copyright © 2007 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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