Cystic echinococcosis is a special form of echinococcosis caused by a parasitic infection. The responsible pathogen is Echinococcus granulosus, which is counted among the tapeworms. The disease develops when the fins of the parasite form cystic structures in the intermediate host.
What is cystic echinococcosis?
Cystic echinococcosis is sometimes also called echinococcal bladder, bladderworm and hydatid cyst. The cysts spread out so that the neighboring organic tissue is displaced. In the majority of cases, humans are infected by the so-called dog tapeworm. For bone inflammation definition and meaning, please visit howsmb.com.
Humans are intermediate hosts for this tapeworm, while animal species such as dogs and wolves are potential definitive hosts. The German Infection Protection Act stipulates that all infections with the corresponding tapeworm must be reported to a doctor.
Basically, Echinococcus granulosus is native to the whole world. In particular, however, it is widespread in southern regions such as the Mediterranean area. Human infection usually occurs when the affected person ingests the tapeworm larvae orally.
Cystic echinococcosis develops after the larvae of the tapeworm get into the human body. First, the worm larvae hatch inside the intestines, from where they move to the liver. In the later course of the infestation, they also spread to other body organs if possible and prefer the lungs in particular.
The incubation period is comparatively long, so it takes a long time before the first symptoms appear. Typical of cysts of cystic echinococcosis are capsules of connective tissue surrounding the structures.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
The symptoms and signs of cystic echinococcosis cover a relatively wide spectrum. Basically, the course of the disease varies from patient to patient and depends primarily on the area of the body and the organs in which the cysts are located. The severity and strength of the immune reaction of the organism also has an effect on the symptoms.
In the majority of cases, the cysts are found in the lungs and liver. The cysts are usually characterized by slow growth, so that there are no symptoms for a long time. The symptoms mainly develop when the cysts take up too much space and thus crowd out other organs.
In addition, symptoms develop when a superinfection caused by bacteria develops in the affected organism. Finally, the development of fistulas and anaphylactic effects lead to the premature onset of symptoms. Otherwise, the infestation with the tapeworms and the cystic echinococcosis remain undetected for a long time.
The typical cysts also form in the heart, kidneys or bones much less frequently than in the liver and lungs. This in turn causes other symptoms to appear. Basically, the incubation period is variable and extends over a period of several months to several years. The age of the affected patients also plays no role in the infestation with the tapeworms.
However, observations indicate that cystic echinococcosis occurs more frequently in people between the ages of 30 and 50. The fin of the dog tapeworm appears as a blister filled with a liquid. The human body’s response to this cyst is to build up connective tissue around the bladder. This is how the so-called brood capsules are formed. The tapeworms develop in these after some time.
Diagnosis & course of disease
In many cases, cystic echinococcosis is diagnosed either by chance as part of other examinations or relatively late, when the disease is already causing significant symptoms. As soon as the suspicion of the presence of cystic echinococcosis arises, the symptoms must be clarified by a doctor.
Here, a thorough anamnesis is first carried out, whereby possible contacts with tapeworm larvae are also discussed. Based on the descriptions of the patient, the attending physician already gains a large number of valuable tips that help him to make the diagnosis. Later, clinical and especially imaging methods are used to diagnose cystic echinococcosis.
Cysts and their localization can be detected during imaging. Laboratory analyzes provide information about the corresponding antibodies. CT and X-ray examinations are also suitable for diagnosing cystic echinococcosis. With regard to the differential diagnosis, the doctor excludes, for example, amoebic abscesses or tumors.
As a rule, there are hardly any symptoms when infested with the dog tapeworm. In rare cases, however, complications, some of which are serious, can occur. Only when a large number of cysts have formed can they put pressure on the blood vessels and bile ducts. Feelings of tension, abdominal pain and, in some cases, jaundice then occur.
The course of the disease varies because, in addition to the liver, the lungs, kidneys, heart or even the brain can also be affected. However, usually only one organ is affected. In severe cases, bleeding and irreversible organ damage can occur in the liver. Dead parasites leave random burrows that can also bleed into. Then there is also the risk of bacterial superinfections, which can even lead to sepsis.
If the lungs are affected, pulmonary cysts can burst, leading to bleeding and accompanied by severe coughing and difficulty breathing. When the central nervous system and especially the brain are affected, various often irreversible neurological disorders occur. In some cases, the parasite cannot be completely eliminated with the help of drug and surgical treatment. In the context of a very dangerous complication, anaphylactic shock, spontaneous healing is even possible in very rare cases due to a massive reaction of the immune system.
When should you go to the doctor?
The disease is characterized by a gradual and steady increase in various health impairments. These appear individually in each patient and should be presented to a doctor as soon as they are consciously perceived by the person concerned. General functional disorders, a feeling of illness and inner weakness indicate the presence of a health disorder. If there is a feeling of tightness in the organism, if the person concerned complains of sensitivity to pressure or if there is a sensory disorder, the observations should be examined by a doctor. Irregularities in digestion, changes in the appearance of the skin and a decreasing general resilience of the organism are indications that should be followed up. A doctor’s visit is necessary
A medical examination is required in the event of pain, noise during digestion or irregular breathing. If there are abnormalities in the heart rhythm, changes in blood pressure, mobility restrictions and a decrease in physical performance, a doctor must be consulted.
Headaches, inner restlessness and fatigue should also be assessed. Sleep disorders and fatigue are other health irregularities that indicate the presence of a disease. As soon as the symptoms persist, they should be presented to a doctor. If there are changes in the usual behavior, if there are mood swings or inner irritation, these irregularities should also be investigated.
Treatment & Therapy
Cystic echinococcosis is treated when it causes symptoms. However, even with cysts that do not cause any symptoms, drug therapy is usually used. The active ingredient albendazole is preferably used here. In addition to treatment with various drugs, there is also the option of performing surgical interventions.
The goal of such procedures is to remove cysts in the liver. After removal, the area is cleaned with a solution of saline. A sterilizing mixture may also be injected. The drug albendazole is also used in such cases.
Cystic echinococcosis can be prevented by avoiding infestation of the organism with the larvae of the dog tapeworm. This can be achieved primarily by complying with hygienic standards.
In the case of echinococcosis, direct follow-up measures are in most cases significantly limited. They are sometimes not even available to the person affected, so that in the case of this disease, a doctor should first and foremost be consulted very early on, so that other complications and symptoms do not arise. The sooner a doctor is consulted, the better the further course of the disease will usually be.
In the case of echinococcosis, those affected themselves are usually dependent on taking various medications. Regular intake and the right dosage should always be observed in order to counteract the symptoms properly and permanently. Regular check-ups and examinations by a doctor are also very important.
This allows further damage to be detected. If echinococcosis is treated by surgery, those affected are advised to take it easy and rest after the operation. Stressful activities or strenuous movements should be avoided. The disease itself usually does not reduce the life expectancy of the person affected if it is treated properly. However, the further course also depends very much on the time at which the disease was diagnosed.
You can do that yourself
It is usually a long time before this diagnosis is made and the patient is already receiving medical treatment. Depending on what the doctor advises, the patient will be given medication or even undergo surgery. As with all operations, good compliance is important here so that unnecessary pre- or post-operative complications cannot occur. This includes, among other things, informing the attending physicians and surgeons about all medications taken and all known previous illnesses in order to minimize the risk of anesthesia.
In order to support the course of recovery, patients should ensure that they are in good general condition before and after the procedure. Anyone who avoids stimulants such as nicotine or alcohol and instead eats well, avoids stress, adheres to regular bedtimes and pays attention to regular exercise, activates and supports their body’s immune system and can thus make a decisive contribution to recovering quickly from cystic echinococcosis.
In particular, exercise in the fresh air, preferably in the countryside or in the forest, activates the cardiovascular system and thus the immune system. Especially if the patients have complained about a drop in performance, headaches, exhaustion and sleep disorders, daily, long walks in the forest, for example, are a good way to regain your strength.