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Tapeworm Infection

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 6, 2024.

What is a tapeworm infection?

Tapeworms are flat worms that are found in contaminated beef, pork, or fish. They are parasites. A tapeworm infection develops when you eat or drink food or water contaminated with infected bowel movement. For example, eating undercooked meat from an infected animal. Or, if you eat food prepared by an infected person who did not wash his or her hands well after having a bowel movement. Tapeworms live in your intestines and feed off the food you eat. They can sometimes move to other parts of your body such as your muscles, eyes, or brain. Cysts form in these areas and can cause serious problems. This is called cysticercosis or neurocysticercosis.

What are the signs and symptoms of a tapeworm infection?

You may not have symptoms of a tapeworm infection. Sometimes tapeworms can cause the following:

How is a tapeworm infection diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and examine you. You may need any of the following:

How is a tapeworm infection treated?

Treatment depends on the kind of tapeworm you have. A tapeworm infection is usually treated with medicine taken by mouth. This medicine paralyzes the tapeworms, which then pass from your body in your bowel movements. Larger tapeworms may cause cramps when they pass from your body.

How can a tapeworm infection be prevented?

Call or have someone call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.