Lymphatic Filariasis Parasite Infection Causes Lymphedema & Elephantiasis Symptoms

Lymphatic filariasis is a parasitic infectious disease most often caused by Wuchereria bancrofti, a filarial worm. Adult worms only live in human lymph systems, but microfilariae, their larva form, circulates in blood.

When a mosquito sucks the blood of someone with circulating micrfilariae, it can become infected. And this is mechanism for spreading lymphatic filariasis.

Tropical or sub-tropical climates is where lymphatic filariasis is transmitted. The greatest risk of infection is to those who live in these areas for a long time and have multiple mosquito bites over several months.

Once infected with the parasite, most will not experience any health symptoms and won’t even know they have lymphatic filariasis. Yet, some develop these symptoms:

Symptoms usually arise years after you’ve been infected and, for the most part, lymphatic filariasis is not considered life threatening. Lymphatic filariasis caused edema mostly affects the legs.

Filarial parasite infections can also cause pulmonary tropical eosinophilia syndrome, symptoms include:

Because the lymph system is affected, those with lymphatic filariases disease tend to have more skin infections.

Treatment for lymphatic filariasis is an annual dose of diethylcarbamazine to kill the microfilaria parasite circulating in your blood. This drug does not kill adult worms, but it does prevent you from spreading the disease. It’s most common side effects are:

Most with lymphedema symptoms are not actively infected with the filarial parasite. Therefore, this drug is not used to treat that health symptom.

However, to prevent your lymphatic filariasis causing lymphedema from worsening, try elevating and exercising your swollen extremity to move fluid and improve lymph flow. Disinfect all skin wounds with antibacterial or antifungal ointments to help prevent elephantiasis.