What is Filariasis(Elephant Leg Disease)?

Lymphatic Filariasis/Elephantiasis (Elephant Leg Disease) is a Parasitic disease caused by microscopic thread-like worms. The Filariasis worms will enter into/grow/multiply and live in the blood stream of human beings affected by the parasites.

Filariasis is one of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. When mosquitoes bite a person already having Filariasis, the worms or the larvae of the worms will pass into the mosquitoes and remain in the blood of the mosquitoes. When those mosquitoes bite others the parasite worms/larvae will migrate from the mosquitoes into their bloodstream. Each adult worm will live inside the human body for 7 years. The adult worms will release millions of worms and all the worms will live and grow inside the body of the person/s. Fluid will be collected inside at various parts of the body. Consequently, the following parts of the body will be swollen:-

  • legs,
  • thighs,
  • genitalia,
  • breasts and
  • arms.

The disease is not life threatening/deadly, but will damage the lymph system and the kidneys of the affected persons. The patients will be affected by bacterial infections and the skin will become thick, and the swollen leg/s will appear like elephant’s leg. The disease will cause:-

  • swellings/wounds,
  • pain,
  • disfigurement of various organs,
  • sexual disability and
  • Psychological and Social Stigma

The patients cannot work normally or lead a normal married life; they will be ashamed of the ugly appearance of their organs, and they will be treated like untouchables by others including their own family members.

Symptoms of Filariasis:-
The disease may begin from childhood of the patient and the larvae and worms of the parasite will remain in the blood of the person and the lymph system and the kidneys will be affected. But there will not be any specific symptoms of Filariasis in the initial stages. In the process of diagnosis/treatment for other diseases, the presence of Filariasis worms or larvae will be detected.

Only in adults the following outward signs and symptoms of Filariasis will be visible:-

  • hydrocoele/ fluid-filled balloon-like enlargement of the sacs around the testes/ and elephantiasis of the male genital organs,
  • swelling of female genital organs,
  • swelling of the breasts,
  • Swelling of the entire leg,
  • Swelling of the entire arm.

To prevent Filariasis:-

  • Medicines, for killing the microscopic worms, must be given to the entire community in areas where the disease is most likely to prevail and spread.
  • Steps must be taken to control and eradicate mosquitoes.
  • Mosquitoes bite must be avoided as a step of prevention of the disease; people must sleep under mosquito nets/mosquito repellents must be used.

Treatment for Filariasis:-

  • If adult worms are present in the blood of the patient, medicines must be given for a year. The medicines will not kill the adult worms, but spreading of the disease to others will be prevented.
  • The swellings and the wounds must be carefully washed daily, applying soap/anti-bacterial creams.
  • The swollen arms and legs must be kept at an elevated level which will improve flow of lymphs.
  • Antibiotics will be prescribed for fighting bacterial infections.
  • The Lymphatic tissues will be removed by surgery/radiation therapy in needed cases.
  • In extreme cases amputation of the limbs will be necessary.

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6 Responses to "What is Filariasis(Elephant Leg Disease)?"

  1. I believe my daugther has this Disease please let me know if there is any one that can help us. Mary McGriff 803-283-0848 Lancaster, SC 29720


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