A tapeworm is a type of intestinal worm that can be found living the human excretory system. Most of the time, people at the highest risk of tapeworm include: people who consume large portions of undercooked/raw meat (especially red meat), or people exposed to either humans or animals already infected with tapeworm. People may easily be infected by contaminated food as well, especially if the chef is contaminated (is infected and hasn’t washed hands before handling food).
In total, there are actually six different species of tapeworm; as a result, self-diagnosis can be tricky, and proper diagnosis would involve seeking professional medical help. Species of tapeworm are named based on the type of host they infect and mature in; for example, taenia saginata worms are primarily found in beef (one of the most common sources of tapeworm in the U.S.), while taenia solium and diphyllobothrium latum are found in pork and fish, respectively.
Like many other annelids, such as pinworm, tapeworms have three stages or growth periods of life: egg (cell stage), larva (juvenile stage), and adult (mature stage). Although all three stages can prove to be a nuisance to the human host, tapeworm only pose a major threat to a person during their adult stage; indicating that the sooner a tapeworm infestation is treated, the less health complications an individual will experience from the parasites.
The most common short-term side effects of a tapeworm infestation would include: nausea, muscle weakness (since the larva often find their way to the muscles), diarrhea (caused by the infection and addition of new, harmful bacteria to the colon), abdominal pain (especially in the lower regions), either excess hunger or a loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss (due to a decrease in the amount of food that passes through the host’s stomach), vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and segments of tapeworm in feces during excretion.
Although the short-term symptoms may not seem life-threatening, when adult tapeworms (and a few juvenile tapeworms) spread to other regions of the body they can induce serious harm. Many tapeworms travel form the colon to major organs in the body, such as the liver, the eyes, the heart, and the brain, to feast; when this occurs, the tapeworm can cause serious damage to the body’s delicate internal organs and may need surgery for successful removal. However, in most cases, when a tapeworm infestation is caught at an early stage medication can be prescribed for removal.
In addition to medication, homeopathic remedies such as garlic, black walnuts, and wormwood (herb) have proven to be a slow, but effective alternative to harsh, doctor-prescribed medications.
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