Causes Of Filariasis: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Filariasis is a parasitic infection that is transmitted by blood feeding organisms, chiefly mosquitoes. There are 8 kinds of thread-like nematodes which cause filariasis. Most cases are caused by the parasite Wuchereria bancrofti.

Filariasis is not life-threatening; however, it can produce permanent and detrimental impairment to the lymphatic system. Drugs such as diethylcarbamazine help treat the condition effectively, but, the swelling of the leg is rather obvious and ugly.

Furthermore, it is advisable to protect yourself from filarial-spreading mosquitoes by using repellents, and also should ward off breeding of mosquitoes with better sanitation and cleanliness.

Symptoms And Signs Of Filariasis

The typical symptom of filariasis is swelling and edema with thickening of the skin as well as underlying tissues. Elephantiasis or gross swelling of the leg develops when the parasites lodge in the lymphatic system. By and large, it afflicts the lower extremities of the body.

On the other hand, the arms, breasts and scrotum may get affected too. Symptoms of subcutaneous filariasis are:

  • Skin rash
  • Macules

Symptoms of serous filariasis­.

  • Skin rash
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Joint pains

What Are The Causes Of Filariasis?

Most cases of filariasis are caused by the parasite Wuchereria bancrofti; and the Aedes, Culex or Anopheles mosquitoes spread the infection.

When an infected mosquito bites a healthy person, the larvae travel in to the lymphatic system.  Here, the larvae develop in to adult worms and stay for several months to years. After about a year, the microfilariae molt and then mature in to the adult worms.

The adult produces more larvae. The larvae circulate in the peripheral blood usually at night, and are sucked by the mosquitoes during a bite. The same cycle is then repeated in another healthy individual; thus transmitting the infection.

Diagnosis, Treatment And Prevention Of Filariasis

The commonly used method for the diagnosis of filariasis is:

  • Direct demonstration of the larvae in the blood or the skin samples. Blood sample should be collected at night given that the microfilariae (larvae) have nocturnal periodicity. The micro-larvae are identified on the Giemsa stain.
  • Detecting the anti-bodies by immune-diagnostic investigations.
  • Detecting the circulating filarial antigen.

Treatment of filariasis is as follows:

  • Diethylcarbamazine is the drug of choice for effectively managing filariasis. It kills the microfilaria, but does not have any effect on the adults. Hence, it only helps control the transmission of infection from individual to individual.
  • It is important to remember that the drug is known to produce a reaction in some people.¬† Also, ivermectin or albendazole may help in some cases.
  • Some health care providers and experts advocate the anti-biotic doxycycline in the management of elephantiasis.

Adequate sanitation and hygiene of the afflicted areas is very vital in order to prevent an aggravation of the lymph-edema as well as warding off secondary bacterial skin infections. The affected leg needs to be kept raised; and regular exercises must be done to help enhance the flow of lymph. Although there are drugs to help manage the infection, the swelling of the leg makes one look very ugly.

It is essential that you protect yourself from the bites of filaria mosquitoes. Use mosquito repellents and ensure that you prevent the breeding of mosquitoes with good practices of hygiene and consequently help prevent filariasis.

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