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What causes lymphatic filariasis?

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Filariasis, known as LF – Lymphatic Filariasis is caused by tiny thread like parasitic nematode worms like Brugia Timori, Brugia Malayi and Wuchereria Bancrofti. Infected mosquitoes transmit this infection disease that can puff up genital organs, breasts, arms and limbs. Limbs nearly turn to the size of limbs of an elephant. It causes severe disfiguration and disability.

Once the worms burrow into the lymphatic system they move to the network of nodes and vessels carrying lymph fluid to the blood and body tissues. Immune system of the body is highly dependent on the lymphatic system. Adult worm can live for 4-6 years in the lymphatic vessels while large number of larvae can be produced by female worms, after which the larvae keep travelling around the bloodstream.

How is lymphatic filariasis diagnosis?
Symptoms are slow and can take years to show. Filariasis is painful and chronic but not fatal. Lymphoedema or swelling and accumulation of hydrocoele a fluid in the subcutaneous layer of skin are signs of this disease. The patient passes cloudy colored urine and underlying tissues of the scrotum and lower limbs start thickening and getting distended in extreme cases. Lower limbs resemble limbs of an elephant, due to which the disease is also called elephantiasis. The skin is hard and rough to touch. Immune system weakens and within the skin, inflammation takes place, making the lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes to swell.
Diagnosis is done by the doctor in different ways like by taking blood samples, a sensitive and simple ICT card test and using a Giemsa stained thick blood film.

A full year’s treatment may be needed by administering two drugs together like Ivermectin and Albendazole with DEC. The drugs are effective upto 99 % in getting rid of microfilariae from the blood. To help eliminate lymphatic Filariasis, new efforts are been made by researchers in level of treatment. Anti parasitic drugs like Albendazole and Mectizan are common treatments for eliminating Lymphatic Filariasis. However preventing the disease is the best way to go.

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