Intestinal tapeworm infections usually aren't complicated. The complications that do sometimes develop include:

  • Digestive blockage. If tapeworms grow large enough, they can block your appendix, leading to infection (appendicits); your bile ducts, which carry bile from your liver and gallbladder to your intestine; or your pancreatic duct, which carries digestive fluids from your pancreas to your intestine.
  • Brain and central nervous system impairment. Called neurocysticercosis (noor-o-sis-tih-sur-KOE-sis), this especially dangerous complication of invasive pork tapeworm infection can result in headaches and visual impairment, as well as seizures, meningitis, hydrocephalus or dementia. Death can occur in severe cases of infection.
  • Organ function disruption. When larvae migrate to the liver, lungs or other organs, they become cysts. Over time, these cysts grow, sometimes large enough to crowd the functioning parts of the organ or reduce its blood supply. Tapeworm cysts sometimes rupture, releasing more larvae, which can move to other organs and form additional cysts. A ruptured or leaking cyst can cause an allergy-like reaction, with itching, hives, swelling and difficulty breathing. Surgery or organ transplantation may be needed in severe cases.
Dec. 20, 2011