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Know Everything About Neurocysticercosis

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Know Everything About Neurocysticercosis

Neurosciences | Posted on 12/29/2022 by Dr. Pushkar Gupta



Overview

Neurocysticercosis is one of the neurological conditions that occurs when there is an invasion of a specific type of parasitic tapeworm in the central nervous system. It is known to be the most common infection of the central nervous system affecting the human brain. This condition affects individuals who swallow the tapeworm Taenia solium, and it grows when the worm’s larvae accumulate in the skin, CNS, eyes, and muscles.

Let’s have a comprehension discussion on this topic and consider this write-up for informational purposes only. It is highly recommended to consult your doctor before jumping to any conclusions.

Neurocysticercosis stages

There are several neurocysticercosis stages that align with the parasite life cycle that is causing it. Here are the stages:

  • Noncystic: It is a stage when the parasite embryo doesn’t appear on any imaging tests such as MRI scans and CT scans. However, an individual experiencing the condition can notice swelling in small areas. Within a short period of time, it becomes lesions, as the embryo forms the cysts and characterizes the illness.
  • Vesicular: In this stage, the cysts have translucent walls and transparent fluid which contains the parasite. An individual will not experience any reaction if the cysts remain intact.
  • Colloidal vesicular: At this stage, the cysts grow thick walls and there is cloudiness in the liquid due to which an individual can experience an intense inflammatory reaction. A radiographic examination is necessary to reveal cystic lesions with swelling and it is common for an individual to experience seizures.
  • Granular vesicular: In this stage, the swelling tends to subside, however, seizures might occur. Seizures occur during the colloidal and granular stages because of inflammation surrounding the disappearing parasite.
  • Calcific stage: This stage occurs when the parasite is dead. Seizures might be experienced because of the inflammation due to the exposure of the immune system.

How does neurocysticercosis illness occur?

Neurocysticercosis condition occurs because of the infection with the Taenia Solium tapeworm. According to the research of the World Health Organisation, there are different neurocysticercosis causes due to which Taenia Solium can enter the human body when a person eats undercooked pork with the infection, drinks contaminated water with the parasites, and has poor hygiene. Another study found that this condition affects 50 million people across the globe, and is one of the major causes of seizures and epilepsy.

What are the neurocysticercosis symptoms?

Neurocysticercosis symptoms depend on the areas where lesions form, the infection extent, and an individual’s immune system response. There are people who might not have neurocysticercosis symptoms. On the other hand, some people might take months or years to start noticing the symptoms.

Cysts can grow in different parts of the body which include muscles, the brain, the eyes, and the spinal cord. The symptoms for an individual vary on the number, location, cysts stages, and size.

The most common neurocysticercosis symptoms are:

  • Increased brain pressure
  • Severe headaches
  • Seizures

Seizures are known to be the primary symptom and are usually the only sign of this illness. Frequent seizures affect around 50-70% of people with this condition. Other neurocysticercosis symptoms are neurological issues affecting the spinal cord, nerves, and brain, and reduced efficiency to remember and think.

Are there any risk factors for neurocysticercosis?

Taenia Solium infections usually occur in rural farming areas where pigs encounter human feces. It is found that international travels are one of the risk factors of neurocysticercosis. The infection also spreads easily if any member of the family has this condition.

How is neurocysticercosis diagnosed?

The neurocysticercosis diagnosis entirely depends on the grouping of the symptoms. Diagnosis these days has become more advanced as neuroimaging technology is used. The doctor might also involve the use of antibody-specific blood tests for supporting the neuroimaging results.

What are the treatment options for neurocysticercosis?

Neurocysticercosis treatment focuses on parasite removals and symptoms management such as controlling seizures, swelling, intracranial hypertension, and swelling.  The right treatment options will depend on size, abundance, and parasite maturity.

After evaluating an individual’s symptoms and the infection extent, the doctor might involve the use of anti-inflammatory therapy and antiparasitic. Surgery might be required in some cases for the removal of cysts.

For people experiencing symptoms and multiple cysts, the doctor might involve using certain drugs for expelling the parasites known as anthelmintic therapy. However, this treatment is not for individuals with calcified cysts.

There might be the use of administer steroids for suppressing the inflammatory responsiveness and anticonvulsant therapy so that seizures are suppressed. In communities, where the condition is common, vets can involve treatment for pigs with vaccinations and anti-parasitic medication for stopping the disease cycle. The recovery time entirely depends on the range of individual factors. Medical advances prove to be useful for doctors in offering effective treatment.

What are the complications of neurocysticercosis?

Neurocysticercosis can have serious complications, majorly, stroke, and even can cause death. According to one research, it is discovered that around 4-12% of people around with a disease encounter stroke as an outcome. If surgery is recommended for the cyst’s removal, then the chances of additional infections will be increased.

Conclusion

Neurocysticercosis is among the common conditions that grow slowly over time affecting the human's central nervous system. It is essential to be mindful of the symptoms and take precautionary steps to prevent the disease such as good hand-washing practices. This condition leads to various neurological problems depending on the parasite’s location such as recurrent headaches, excessive pressure in the skull, and variations in behavior and thinking. One should ensure consulting a doctor as soon as symptoms are observed and mainly if there are any recent travels.

FAQs

Is Neurocysticercosis completely curable?

Yes, neurocysticercosis is curable as it is treated with anti-parasitic medication combined with anti-inflammatory medications. There might be a requirement of surgery in some cases to treat cysts in some locations if the patient is not responding to the medicational treatment, or if brain swelling is not reducing. 

How much time does it take to treat neurocysticercosis?

According to studies, it is found that treating neurocysticercosis might take around 15 days which includes medications and surgery if needed. 

Can MRI detect neurocysticercosis?

Yes, MRI is among the finest ways to detect neurocysticercosis for both parenchymal and ventricular forms. However, a CT scan proved to be a better method when it comes to the representation of calcification to identify the end stage of parenchymal neurocysticercosis.