What is Lymphatic Filariasis?
What is Lymphatic Filariasis? Lymphatic Filariasis is an infection caused by filarial worms. This disease can attack animals and humans. The filarial parasite has hundreds of species, but only 8 species can cause infection in humans. The clustering of filariasis is generally categorized according to the location of the adult worm habitat in the human body. Some types include skin filariasis, lymphatics, and body cavities. This article will discuss in more detail about lymphatic filariasis. In Indonesia, this disease is better known as elephantiasis foot or elephantiasis.
Causes and Transmission of Lymphatic Filariasis
In 2000, WHO estimates there are about 120 million people in the world who suffer from lymphatic filariasis. A third of them have severe infections that change the shape of the affected part of the body. Parasites that can cause this type of filariasis include Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and Brugia timori.
W. bancrofti is the most common parasite attacking humans. It is estimated that 9 out of 10 lymphatic filariasis patients are caused by this parasite. While the rest is usually caused by B. malayi.
The filarial parasite enters the human body through the bite of an infected mosquito. The parasite will grow in the form of a worm, survive for 6 to 8 years, and continue to multiply in human lymph tissue.
This infection is commonly experienced since childhood and causes damage to the unconscious lymphatic system until there is a severe and painful swelling. The swelling can then cause permanent disability.
Symptoms of Lymphatic Filariasis
Based on the symptoms, lymphatic filariasis is divided into 3 categories. The groupings include asymptomatic, acute, and chronic conditions.
Most lymphatic filariasis infections occur without any symptoms. However, this infection still causes damage to the lymph and kidney tissue as well as affect the immune system.
Acute lymphatic filariasis is subdivided into 2 types, namely acute adenolymphangitis (ADL) and acute filarial lymphangitis (AFL).
When suffering from ADL, the patient will experience symptoms of fever, swollen lymph nodes or lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy), as well as pain, redness, and swelling on the infected body part. ADL can recur more than once a year, especially in the rainy season. The accumulating fluid can trigger fungal infections and damage the skin. The more frequent the recurrence, the swelling can get worse.
While AFL caused by adult worms that are dying will trigger symptoms slightly different from the ADL. This condition is generally not accompanied by fever or other infections. AFL can also trigger symptoms of small bumps on the part of the body where dying worms accumulate (eg in the lymph system or in the scrotum).
In cases of chronic lymphatic filariasis, lymphoedema or fluid buildup causes swelling of the legs and arms. The buildup of fluids and infections that result from immune deficiency will eventually lead to damage and thickening of the skin layer. This condition is referred to as elefantiasis. In addition, fluid buildup can affect the abdominal cavity, the testes in men and breast patients in women.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Lymphatic Filariasis
The process of diagnosis of lymphatic filariasis can be done through blood tests and urine tests. Both of these tests will detect the presence of filarial parasites in the patient’s body. Blood tests will be done at night when the parasites are active. Ultrasound is also sometimes needed to detect changes in the lymph system and adult worms in the scrotum of a man.
If positive is diagnosed, the doctor will provide anti-filarial drugs to deal with lymphatic filariasis. Examples of drugs commonly used are diethylcarbamazine (DEC). Chronic conditions also sometimes must be accompanied by other handling measures that include:
- Surgery for men with hydrocele, the accumulation of fluid in the scrotum.
- Perform light exercise for body parts that have fluid buildup to trigger the flow.
- Clean the swollen parts thoroughly with soap and water every day to prevent infection.
- Sterilize wounds if any.
Prevention of Lymphatic Filariasis
The main step to prevent contracting filariasis is to avoid mosquito bites as much as possible. This is very important, especially in tropical countries, such as Indonesia. To maximize protection against mosquito bites, we can take simple steps that include:
- Wearing clothes and trousers.
- Apply lotion antinyamuk.
- Sleeping in the mosquito net.
- Cleaning puddles around the house.
Spread of lymphatic filariasis can also be discontinued through preventive chemotherapy procedures for people living at the site of infection and its surroundings.