Tapeworm infections - Symptoms 

Symptoms of a tapeworm infection 

People are often unaware they have a tapeworm infection. They may have no, or very few, non-specific, symptoms.

But there may be other symptoms if the type of tapeworm you're infected with produce larvae (newly hatched worms) which can leave the intestine and live in other parts of your body.

Symptoms of a tapeworm infection

If you are infected with an adult tapeworm, you may see larvae or segments from the tapeworm in your stools (poo), which look like white grains of rice. The segments contain tapeworm eggs.

Depending on the type of tapeworm, other symptoms could include:

  • pain above the stomach or in the abdomen (tummy)
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhoea
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • dizziness
  • insomnia
  • malnutrition
  • jaundice

Infection with beef or pork tapeworms can cause an increase in appetite.

In rare cases, infection with the fish tapeworm can cause vitamin B12 deficiency, because the worm absorbs this vitamin. You need vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, so a deficiency can lead to anaemia (a reduced number of red blood cells).

Symptoms of a tapeworm larvae infection

Some types of tapeworm may not develop into the adult form in the intestine. Instead, their larvae (newly hatched worms) burrow through your intestine wall and enter your bloodstream. Then they can travel to, and settle in, other places around your body.

The symptoms of a tapeworm larvae infection vary, depending on the type of tapeworm, how severe the infection is and which part of the body is affected.

For example, the symptoms could include:

  • coughing or pain in the lungs caused by an abscess
  • headaches or fits (seizures)
  • fever
  • allergic reactions to the larvae 

Page last reviewed: 04/09/2014

Next review due: 04/09/2016

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