What is the treatment for cysticercosis?
The treatment of cysticercosis depends on various factors, including the individual's symptoms, the location and number of cysticerci, and the stage of cyst development. Generally speaking, treatment is tailored to each individual patient and their particular presentation, and treatment regimens may include anthelmintic agents, corticosteroids, anticonvulsant medications, and/or surgery. Asymptomatic patients may not require any treatment at all. Controversy does exist as to which patients require treatment with the various medications.
Active taeniasis can be treated with praziquantel (Biltricide) or niclosamide. Praziquantel should be used with caution if there is the possibility of neurocysticercosis, as it can cause inflammation around dying cysts.
For cysticercosis, the most commonly used anthelmintic agents include albendazole (Albenza) and praziquantel. These antiparasitic medications are effective in eliminating viable cysticerci, though they may cause reactive localized inflammation. Consequently, the use of these medications must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. More than one course of treatment may be necessary to completely eliminate active cysts.
Corticosteroids may also be used in conjunction with, or instead of, antiparasitic medications. However, corticosteroids are used to decrease inflammation but are not active against the parasite. Again, treatment with these medications must be tailored to each individual case. Consultation with an infectious disease expert is recommended.
Anticonvulsant medications are used in patients with neurocysticercosis experiencing seizures or at high risk for recurrent seizures. Various anticonvulsant medications, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) or phenytoin (Dilantin), may be prescribed. Consultation with an experienced neurologist may be helpful to determine patient treatment.
Surgical management may also be necessary in select cases of cysticercosis. Surgical removal of central nervous system cysts or placement of a brain shunt (to relieve pressure) is sometimes necessary in some cases of neurocysticercosis. Certain cases of cysticercosis involving the eyes or subcutaneous cysts may also require surgery (ophthalmic surgeon).