Tapeworm infected a woman's brain, causing years of headaches

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Chronic headache is a very common symptom that can be caused by many medical conditions. Many times, the underlying cause can be correctly identified and managed. In other situations, by contrast, the cause for a chronic headache can be misdiagnosed and thus inappropriately managed. Such a misdiagnosis occurs unluckily in a 25-year-old Australian barista.



Chronic headaches turned out to be neurocysticercosis


This young lady has been afflicted with chronic headaches for 7 years and would experience splitting headaches about every 3 months. She was diagnosed with migraines and managed as such. In her last headache episode, the headache lasted for more than one week, which is very uncommon for migraines. A brain MRI scan of her head raised the possibility of a brain tumor, and when the surgeons operated on her brain, they found that the “tumor” was actually a parasite called tapeworm. Finally, this young lady was diagnosed with neurocysticercosis.



What is neurocysticercosis?


Neurocysticercosis is a medical term for infection of the brain by the larvae (young parasites) of a parasite called Taenia solium (tapeworm).


Usually, the adult tapeworm lives in the intestines of the pigs and could produce many eggs that will be mixed with the pig’s feces. Once the foods or water we humans eat or drink have been contaminated by the pig’s feces, the tapeworm eggs in them will be swallowed into the human stomach and intestines. Then, the eggs will hatch into young tapeworms. These little tapeworms would burrow into the intestinal wall and enter the bloodstream to various organs, most predominantly the brain and the muscles. When these little tapeworms enter into the brain, they cause neurocysticercosis.



What are the symptoms of neurocysticercosis?


Many can be asymptomatic, while others can present with symptoms of headache or blurry vision. It may even cause symptoms similar to a brain stroke, such as leg weakness. Frequently, some patients could have epilepsy (seizure).


How do doctors diagnose neurocysticercosis?


A brain MRI scan is almost always needed to diagnose this condition. Moreover, doctors would also need to rule out conditions that cause similar symptoms. For example, for patients like the 25-year-old woman, doctors would need to rule out possibilities of migraine, tension headache, etc.



So, why did the Australian doctors misdiagnose this case?


It is very likely that the Australian doctors caring for this lady are not so experienced, since neurocysticercosis is predominantly seen in countries where domestic pig farming is common, such as in many Asian countries. Second, the lady had no apparent exposure to contaminated foods or drinks, which would further belie the doctors. In the above case, it is believed that she had accidentally ingested tapeworm eggs released from a carrier before.


How to treat neurocysticercosis?


Patients with no symptoms do not need to be treated. For symptomatic patients, there are oral medications that could eradicate the worm. Sometimes surgery is needed to remove the worm.



How to distinguish between neurocysticercosis and migraine?


It might not be a migraine if you:

· Have seizures

· Have muscle weakness or numbness

· Have changes in headaches over time


Obviously, patients and their doctors need to have a brain CT or MRI scan before attributing the headache to “migraine” to prevent further misdiagnoses.

5 Answers

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Poor girl, scary evil thing.
That would be the most terrifying thing for anyone to have to go threw any kind of parasite or fungus  or bacteria is frightening enough to learn more about it use natural resources as well as other important ways prayers and be educated and if sick with it medication for cure of it ,,,,,in one city a family of pig farmers ....didnt want a women dating there son because the lady was smart and pretty and was telling the son of the pig farmers that his family was doing wrong to him and slowly proving it well over a period of time the lady had ate with the family on events but later was being severely sick and was having odd and different types of pain headache constipation heart problems and her doctor was in able to understand these reacurees so this lady continued as nothing was the matter and had dinner and outing events so after feeling sick for the first year with no diagnoses she stared recording good preparations and other things that was recorded she had showed the doctor on more than one session that was outing something into food well the lady got visual and audio of them planning to hurt her the get rid of the lady out of this man life and decided with other family members to revive and gain money threw her sickness as they were expecting death and had multiple insurance policy out on this lady low and behold the doctor whom heard and saw footage of this acurance called the police and investigation was being done to were they had found out other things that got f.b.i involved and now 5 people from that family was imprision and now serving life due to the attempt of murder as well as conspiracy for insurance fraud and death in there own family for making them sick until death and receiving large amount of money now that's evil this happen with a pig farmers family in the South of Louisiana evil that's evil and I'm sure as they proclaimed to be a Godly family hell  has gotten  there name written all over it in ranks and what was most shocking the father was a insurance sells person
Just because one farming family was involved in this bad situation doesn’t mean that all farmers are that way. If it wasn’t for farmers, the world would be starving. No to put down some of the bad things that do happen with farmers, I still appreciate them tremendously!
here you can get interesting and very good learning, thank you for sharing useful things for everyone here, including myself ..
I have the same thing I got small pieces or worm like coming out my eyes an so embarrassed I've been to clinic and they put me out and said it was gross go to eye doctor am so confused .
Can you give a picture of the "small pieces of worm" of your eyes? Did you go to see an eye doctor? Why do you feel confused to see an eye doctor for an eye problem? I uploaded a picture of eye worm, so you can check whether your eye problem is similar to the one shown.

eye worm

no yes no