Tapeworm is a term that is used to describe a group of parasitic worms that live in the intestine of animals as well as humans. Tapeworm infection of the intestine occurs when people eat raw, undercooked meat like beef, pork or even freshwater fish.
Symptoms of tapeworm infestation depend on the affected organ and the species of tapeworm
Many people affected by tapeworm infestations do not show any symptoms. Tapeworms can inhabit the gut of humans without causing any damage. However some species of tapeworms begin to use the nutrition from the human gut in order to thrive. When this happens the affected person becomes deprived of vital nutrients and begins to show signs of anemia and malnutrition. The tapeworm also lodges firmly inside the gut and causes irritation of the gut .In such cases the affected person may often complain of abdominal discomfort, diarrhea and vomiting. The tapeworms may travel through the blood stream and affect other organs producing associated symptoms. The most common organ to be affected is the liver. But the traveling larvae can also affect the kidneys and the brain, thereby producing serious complications. The tapeworm species that is more likely to travel into the blood stream and affect the internal organs is the pork tapeworm.
Common symptoms of tapeworm infestation
Many people affected by tapeworm infestations may not develop any symptoms for a long time. In some cases like the hydatid disease the symptoms may be life threatening or potentially fatal. The symptoms also depend on the affected organ especially when the tapeworm larvae travel through the blood stream and attack the internal organs of the body. Since liver is the organ that is most commonly attacked by the larvae the most common symptoms are bloating of the abdomen and abdominal discomfort. In some rare cases the abdominal larvae can also attack the thyroid gland and develop watery cysts.
Some of the common symptoms of tapeworm infestation are as follows:
- Abdominal discomfort
- Stomach upset
- Unexplained weight loss
- Swollen abdomen
- Weakness and fatigue
- Excessive hunger
- Worms in stools
Diagnosis of tapeworm infestation
Diagnosis is mainly based on the examination of the blood and the stools. Other methods used in the diagnosis are medical examination, physical examination, MRI and ultrasound.