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VLM (Visceral Larva Migrans) Symptoms & Treatment

Updated on April 6, 2010

I have had VLM (visceral larva migrans) and I have to tell you, it was no party. I had it for several years without having a clue, which is pretty silly when you consider my educational background and how quickly I ought to have realized what was wrong with me. If you don't know what VLM is, it's a syndrome caused by Toxocariasis, which is something people get when they accidentally eat infectious eggs from a type of dog or cat worm. Because I am such a healthy person by nature and have such high energy levels, my decreased energy levels and moderate symptoms made doctors think I was perfectly fine, because I was still above average in terms of how healthy the general population is. But I finally figured it out on my own (and later had it confirmed) so let me tell you what it was like.

Treatment:

  • Thankfully, it's really easy to treat VLM. Really. Granted, if you've got a secondary complication, such as pneumonia, you'll need treatment for that as well, but getting rid of the worm that causes VLM is quite simple.

  • I took two Mebendazole (a very cheap prescription, unless you live somewhere like Mexico where everyone takes this twice a year as a preventative measure) tablets every day for 5 days (one in the morning, one in the evening). In the case of worm treatment, doctors often re-treat patients in 3 weeks, but that's not necessarily common for this sort of illness because they are not worms that normally live in people. In my case, however, I opted to re-treat in 3 weeks just for my own peace of mind.

  • The pills were very well tolerated -- they could be chewed or swallowed whole, and there's also a syrup available for kids. If you'd like to know how they work, they pretty much cause the worms to starve and die. You don't need to avoid any foods or drinks while taking it, just be sure to take the pills with a full glass of water.

How soon are you better?

Within 2 days, I noticed my vision had improved HUGELY. By the time I'd finished the treatment, my vision was back to what it had always been. By the 3rd day, all of my edema (swollen organs and swollen fingers, etc) was gone and I actually had to get smaller clothes because I lost 2 clothing sizes. NOT an exaggeration -- as you can see, I had the typical weight loss, but it was hidden by the bloating and edema. All of the other symptoms were gone either within the first 72 hours or by the end of the 5th day.

What is it?

VLM is caused by Toxocariasis. The latter tends to resolve on its own; the former, not so much. VLM in a nutshell: You get a fully developed roundworm egg (from a cat or dog) in your mouth. You swallow. The larva doesn't know what to do with itself because it can't complete its normal life-cycle in a human, so he goes for a walk. Once in your body it (or they) hangs around for awhile and some of your organs and other bits may start a little mutiny. Or, the worms may just be rude guests and cause all sorts of problems. Those problems can be several types of illnesses, and they're all part of VLM.

Symptoms:

I'm going to start by giving you my symptoms, because they were not entirely typical.

  • Weight-loss: but it was NOT noticeable in any way because I was so bloated that I'd thought I'd simply gained weight I couldn't lose. I wasn't fat, but I felt fat. This was because my internal organs were edematous (swollen) and I didn't realize, as I didn't have any pain.

  • Insomnia: I wasn't awake for days on end, but it often took me hours to fall asleep, even if I was exhausted. Also, I couldn't sleep more than a few hours straight without waking up. It was pretty bad by the time I was treated.

  • Edema (swelling): I had swollen eyelids for several years (which is why Im pretty sure I know when it all started) and had to take antihistamines to treat it. I thought i had allergies because that's what my allergist told me, as I do have a severe dust mite allergy. Turned out I did have an allergy -- to the worms inside of me. And I say that seriously, because they do produce toxins as they are foreign objects in your body!

  • Asthma: I started to develop something like asthma when I was sleeping. I had trouble breathing to point I needed an epi-pen just in case. As someone who had a bad croup cough as a child, it was a bit scary because I still remember what it was like waking up and not being able to breathe.

  • Vision problems: I had major vision problems in my left eye, but I could still read the bottom line of the eye chart and the eye doctor just thought I was a hypochondriac. I do not think I had OLM (those would be incredible odds to have had both, and I didn't have the main symptoms of it, anyway) but having worms can produce loads of eye floaters (more than normal), which I definitely had. My vision returned to normal two days after treatment, so I am sure it was related.

  • Irritability: This would depend on the personality of each person, but if you're LOTS more irritable than normal and it's chronic and you have no other reason for it, this could be why. My irritability was really bothering me and it was beginning to make me worry that I had a brain tumor. Thankfully, I only had VLM.

Other Symptoms:

There are other symptoms I didn't have:

  • Abdominal pain, fever, cough, headaches, nausea, seizures, rashes, chest tightness, vomiting, respiratory failure and in rare cases (if not caught in time) you can die from it.

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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