Filariasis (elephantiasis)

Skin | Allergy & Immunology | Filariasis (elephantiasis) (Disease)


Lymphatic filariasis affects over 120 million people in the tropics and sub-tropics of Asia, Africa, Western Pacific, and parts of Central and South America. The disease spreads from person to person by mosquito bites. When a mosquito bites a person who has lymphatic filariasis, microscopic worms circulating in the persons blood enter and infect the mosquito. If the infected mosquito bites another person, they can then get lymphatic filariasis. The microscopic worms pass from the mosquito through the skin, and travel to the lymph vessels.

In the lymph vessels they grow into adults. An adult worm lives for about 7 years. The adult worms mate and release millions of microscopic worms into the blood. Once a person has the worms in their blood, when a mosquito bites, the mosquito can transmit the disease to yet another person.

At first, most people dont know they have lymphatic filariasis. They usually dont feel any symptoms until after the adult worms die. The disease usually is not life threatening, but it can permanently damage the lymph system and kidneys.

Because the lymph system does not work right, fluid collects and causes swelling in the arms, breasts, legs, and, for men, the genital area. The name for this swelling is lymphedema. The entire leg, arm, or genital area may swell to several times its normal size. Also, the swelling and the decreased function of the lymph system make it difficult for the body to fight germs and infections. A person with the disease tends to have more bacterial infections in the skin and lymph system. This causes hardening and thickening of the skin, which is called elephantiasis.

Causes and Risk factors

Filariasis (philariasis) is a parasitic disease and is considered an infectious tropical disease, that is caused by thread-like nematodes (roundworms) belonging to the superfamily Filarioidea, also known as filariae. These are transmitted from host to host by blood-feeding arthropods, mainly black flies and mosquitoes.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Blood tests should be dine in order to measure the antibodies to the parasite. Treatment consists in antiparasitic medications. Chronic infections and lymph damage can occur occasionally requiring surgery. ...

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