The most common treatment of cysticercosis is medication prescribed to kill the parasites which cause the condition. Other drugs for pain and additional symptoms may also be needed to alleviate discomfort in patients with progressed forms of the illness. Occasionally surgery is also used. Treatment of cysticercosis may be different for every patient, and will depend on which areas of the body are affected.
Cysticercosis is a parasitic infection caused by the tapeworm Taenia solium. It is usually passed into human hosts through undercooked pork that contains the tapeworm larvae. Once inside the human stomach, they multiply into fully grown tapeworms and can infect the brain, heart, bones, and other bodily systems. When they only infect the muscles, symptoms may not present at all. Symptoms that can occur when the worms infection other areas can include headaches, vision changes, seizures, and irregular heart rhythm.
A proper diagnosis must be made before treatment of cysticercosis can begin. Once the condition is confirmed, additional testing must be done to determine how widely spread it is, with scans and bloodwork being done to check for tapeworm infection in various areas of the body.
Various therapies may be used in conjunction with one another in the treatment of cysticercosis. These usually include medicinal treatment using anti-parasitic drugs to kill the worms, along with medicines to reduce edema and to alleviate pain. If more serious complications occur, such as seizures, these can warrant more medications and sometimes surgery to remove lesions from affected tissues.
When caught early, patients can make a full recovery from cysticercosis. Most of the time, the tapeworms do not infect the more critical areas, like the heart and brain, but when they do this condition has the potential to be fatal. For this reason, those who live in areas where cysticercosis is prominent should automatically be tested for the condition when exhibiting any symptoms. These include areas in Mexico, the southwestern United States, Asia, and Africa.
Although treatment of cysticercosis is often possible, the best methods of avoiding fatal side effects from this condition is to prevent it in the first place. Pork should be cooked thoroughly before consumption. Any utensils used for preparing raw or undercooked pork should be washed thoroughly in hot water, and vegetables and other foods that may be eaten raw should be prepared in a separate area from pork products. Those with a known infection should wash hands thoroughly with hot water and avoid putting their hands on the nose, eyes, and mouth. Childcare and health care workers living in commonly affected areas should wash hands thoroughly after changing diapers and otherwise handling waste.