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Infectious Diseases

About those Tapeworms

12/09/2002

Question:

How do you get rid of tapeworms? Does it hurt when u have them and why? How do u know u have them? WHen u do get rid of them how do u know that there all out of u? How long can you have them? Do the doctors get them out or do they come out there self? Last,but not least can u die from them? Do they hurt when they`ve come out?

Answer:

Dear NetWellness Reader. You ask some interesting questions about the subject of tapeworms. The general name given to parasites that cause tapeworm infections is cestode. There are several types of tapeworms (cestodes) that are known to infect man. The more common ones come from beef tapeworm (Taenia saginata) and the pork tapeworm (Taenia solium); some of the less common ones are Diphyllobothrium latum (fish tapeworm), Hymenolepis nana (dwarf tapeworm) and Echinococcus granulosis (hydatid cyst disease). Each of the tapeworms has a lifecycle that starts at the egg stage. The parasite egg then hatches and goes through an immature form(s)called a larva(e) and finally becomes an adult that can mate with another adult to produce eggs. The parasites usually get into the human by being ingested (eaten) from contaminated food. Some of the tapeworm infections that occur in humans are caused by the adults, whereas others are caused by the larval form. The type of tapeworm infection will determine the symptoms and potential complications that you get from this infection. Sometimes a person can be infected with a tapeworm and have no symptoms. At other times, a person infected with a tapeworm could have mild symptoms of abdominal discomfort or pain. Some tapeworms can predispose to vitamin and nutritional deficiencies. In some severe cases, there can be infection that migrates to the brain and causes seizures. Some can cause abscesses to form in the liver or abdominal area. These severe cases tend to be rare, but when they do occur can be life-threatening and potentially lead to death. Most however, do not cause severe symptoms Because the symptoms are so variable, it can be hard to know whether you have infection with tapeworms of not. Sometimes the only thing a person may have that makes them suspicious about tapeworms is seeing a portion from a tapeworm present in a bowel movement. Also, there are other parasite infections of the intestines that are not caused by tapeworms, but that are caused by other worms. If a person is suspected of having a tapeworm (or some of the other parasitic worms) samples of bowel movements can be taken and analyzed under the microscope for evidence of the tapeworm infection. The laboratory may look for evidence of these parasites by looking for eggs, larval forms, or sometimes even adults can be seen. When a person has been diagnosed with a tapeworm, his/her physician may prescribe medication for treatment. Again, the medication and length of treatment may depend upon the type of cestode (tapeworm) that is present. These medications usually cause the tapeworm to die and then it will pass from the body with bowel movements. Typically these do not cause discomfort when they pass; however, very large tapeworms may cause some cramping or other abdominal discomfort as they pass. The more serious infections can also be treated with medications. If you would like more information about tapeworms, I suggest that you try the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) website. On the CDC homepage there is a tab called Health Topics A to Z. Click on the Health Topics A to Z tab and search for the general topic of tapeworms or you can look at topics of the specific names of organisms that were provided above. 

Related Resources:

Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention

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Response by:

Stephen   Kralovic, MD Stephen Kralovic, MD
Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati