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group of tropical diseases caused by a range of parasitic roundworms and larvae that transmit disease to humans. About 200 million people are affected by filariasis, which occurs in tropic and subtropic areas of southeast Asia, South Arnerica, Africa, and the Pacifico Mosquitoes inject the worm larvae when they bite, which migrate to the lyrnph no des where they develop into mature worms in about ayear. Some of the species live in the lymphatic vessels and block them, causing ELEPHANTIASIS (swelling of limbs with thickened, coarse skin).

Another type of worm can be seen and felt just underneath the skin, which produces irritating and painful swellings called calabar swellings. Bancroftian filariasis (Wuchereria bancrofti filarial nematode) is spread widely throughout Africa, southern and southeastern Asia, the Pacific, and the tropical and subtropical regions of South Arnerica. Malayan filariasis (Brugia malayi filarial nematode) is found only in southern and southeastern Asia. Imported cases of the filariases may be found in the United States, especially among immigrants from the Caribbean and Pacific islands.

Filariasis  Causes

Bancroftian and Malayan filariases are transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. The infective larvae that are transmitted into humans via the bite pass into the human lymph system, where they develop to maturity during a 6- to 12-month periodo Fertilized mature female worms release embryos that develop into moving larvae (microfilariae), which appear in the human blood system at night only.

Filariasis  Symptoms

Initial inflammatory symptoms occur between three months to ayear after the mosquito bite, with episodes of chills, headache, and fever. The fever is often associated with inflammation of the lymphatic system. There is swelling, redness, and pain in arms, legs, or scrotum. An ABSCESS may occur as a result of dying

worms and secondary bacterial infection. Repeated episodes of inflammation lead to obstruction of the lymphatic system, especially in the genital and leg areas. Chronic swelling stimulates the growth of connective tissue in the skin, causing massive permanent enlargement and deformity (elephantiasis). In Bancroftian filariasis the legs and genitalia are most often involved; in the Malayan variety the portion of the legs below the knees are affected, but genitals are usually spared.

Filariasis  Diagnosis

Blood specimen examination for filaria antigen, patient history, and appearance of the patient.

Filariasis  Treatment

The prognosis is good in early or mild cases, and if the patient can avoid reinfection. Three weeks of diethylcarbamazine cures the infection. However, reactions to large numbers of dying parasites are common (fever, malaise, nausea, and vomiting), so doses are usually low at first. Oral antihistamines may help control hives, and elastic stockings may help control swelling However, no treatment can reverse elephantiasis. Surgery mayease massive enlargement of the scrotum.

Prevention of Filariasis 

In infested areas, filariasis can be controlled by taking diethylcarbamazine or ivermectin preventively, and by using insecticides, repellents, nets, and protective clothing.

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