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5 Commonly Asked Questions About Tapeworm Infection

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Oct 13, 2021

5 Commonly Asked Questions About Tapeworm Infection

Tapeworms are flatworms that can live inside the human body, usually in the digestive system. In many cases, intestinal tapeworm infections do not cause symptoms; if they do, the symptoms are typically mild. However, there are instances when the infection “migrates” from the intestine to the other parts of the body. Here’s what you need to know about tapeworm infection.

How do people get tapeworm infection?

Tapeworm infection occurs when a person consumes foods or drinks contaminated with the tapeworm itself or its eggs.

Most patients get it from:

  • The consumption of raw or undercooked pork, beef, or fish infected with tapeworm.
  • Contact with feces containing tapeworm eggs. This may happen when a person doesn’t wash their hands properly after using the bathroom. Tapeworm eggs can then contaminate food or objects.

What common symptoms does it cause?

As mentioned earlier, adult tapeworm in the intestine usually does not result in signs and symptoms. However, there are instances when a tapeworm infection leads to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Upper abdominal discomfort
  • Mild nausea
  • Weight loss, especially in children

Please keep in mind that an adult tapeworm attaches itself to the intestine, where they also feed off the food you consume. When a piece of the tapeworm breaks off the main body, the patient may feel the part in their anus in the form of itching, which is especially felt at night. Additionally, they might see a ribbon-like worm in their stool.

Also, don’t forget that symptoms may vary depending on the species of tapeworm involved. Case in point, dwarf tapeworms (which are due to ingesting or coming into contact with fecally contaminated food or water) are more likely to cause digestive symptoms while fish tapeworms may lead to anemia because it absorbs vitamin B12.

Natural Ways to Treat Intestinal Parasites

Can tapeworm infection lead to severe symptoms?

In cases when a person ingests pork tapeworm eggs, invasive infection or cysticercosis may occur.

Cysticercosis happens when the pork tapeworm eggs develop into larvae that penetrate the intestinal wall and travel to other parts of the body like the liver, lungs, eyes, spinal cord, and brain. There, the larvae cause cysts to form.

This invasive infection can be life-threatening, particularly when the cysts deteriorate and become inflamed. Symptoms may include:

  • Neurological symptoms, like seizures.
  • Headaches
  • Cystic masses or lumps
  • Allergic reactions to the larvae

How do you treat tapeworm infection?

Some people with tapeworm infection never receive treatment because the worm exits the body on its own.

If you’ve been diagnosed with intestinal tapeworm infection, the doctor will prescribe you anthelmintic medicines to eliminate the worm. Please note that the drug depends on the species, and it does not target the eggs.

On the other hand, the treatment for cysticercosis depends on the number of cysts and their location. For instance, doctors might decide on the surgical removal of the cysts in the lungs, eyes, and liver since they will eventually interfere with the organ’s functions.

Patients with cysticercosis in the brain may receive the following medicines:

  • Anthelmintic medicine
  • Antiepileptic drugs
  • Anti-inflammatory therapy

Shunt placement in cases of fluid accumulation in the brain may also be necessary.

What are the steps to prevent tapeworm infection?

To avoid tapeworm infection, practice the following:

  • Frequent handwashing, particularly before handling food and after using the bathroom.
  • Proper disposal of livestock feces.
  • If you live or will travel to areas where tapeworm infection is common, wash fruits and vegetables using clean water before consumption.
  • Freeze meat for 7 to 10 days and fish for 24 hours before food preparation to destroy tapeworm eggs and larvae.

And finally, cook fish and meat thoroughly.

Cook fish until it gains a solid color and flakes when you separate the meat using a fork. As for meat, cook them until the juice runs clear and the middle is no longer pink. The cooking temperature should be somewhere around 63 C.

Bulate Sa Tiyan: How Can Worms End Up in Your Intestines?

Key Takeaways

Many cases of tapeworm infection don’t result in symptoms. When they do, intestinal infection usually leads to mild digestive symptoms that need oral medications. Severe symptoms that warrant more complicated treatment may also occur when an invasive infection (cysticercosis) occurs.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Kristina Campos, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Oct 13, 2021

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