What is filariasis?


msBahasa Malaysia

Know the basics

What is filariasis?

Filariasis is a parasitic disease caused by roundworms. The thread-like worms live in the human lymphatic system, affecting the body immune system and cause infections.

Filariasis can leave long-term consequences. You may experience pain or limb swelling for a long time and loss of sexual ability.

How common is filariasis?

Filariasis is a common condition in tropical and subtropical countries such as Africa, Western Pacific and Asia. It can affect patients at any age and can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of filariasis?

Filariasis leaves almost no symptoms in the first stage. The infections commonly affect the legs, but it can also affect other parts such as the arms, breast, and genitalia. The symptoms may take years to be noticed.

  • The body part that is infected will swell up and gradually lost function due to the infection of the lymphatic system (lymphedema).
  • You are likely to have bacterial infections on the skin and in the lymphatic system. Your skin will become harder and thicken (which also called elephantiasis).
  • In men, infections may cause swelling and hydrocele (body fluid retention) in the scrotum.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Because you can hardly find filariasis symptoms until the adult worms die and the lymph system is damaged, it is important for you to notice any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions. Please consult with your doctor immediately. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Know the causes

What causes filariasis?

Filariasis is caused by microscopic worms. It can be transferred from people to people through mosquito bites. The microscopic worms will enter and infect the mosquitoes when they bite and the mosquitoes will carry the worms to another person. These worms will go through the skin, the head to the lymph vessels and cause infection.


Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for filariasis?

There are many risk factors for filariasis, such as:

  • If you are bitten by mosquitoes for many times;
  • If you are living in tropical or subtropical regions where this condition commonly happens.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is filariasis diagnosed?

The basic diagnosis of filariasis is microscopic examination to identify microfilariae. This exam is only carried out in the evening in most countries, because the microfilariae only travel in the blood at night. This blood test will be performed to detect the presence of microfilariae.

Instead of microscopic examination, serologic techniques are used to determine lymphedema. Because lymphedema may develop many years after infection, the results of microscopic examinations are often negative with these patients.

How is filariasis treated?

Your doctor may require a yearly medication named diethylcarbamazine (DEC) to kill the worms in your blood. Although the drug cannot kill all the worms, it can help to protect you from getting further infections and passing the infections to other people.

Doctor can also recommend you some tips to prevent the condition from getting worse:

  • Gently wash the swollen area with soap daily;
  • Rub wounds with anti-bacterial cream to stop bacterial infections;
  • Raise and work out for the swollen areas to help improve blood flow.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage filariasis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with filariasis:

  • Avoiding mosquito bites is the most effective way to avoid filariasis. Remember to sleep under a mosquito-net.
  • Avoid travelling to the areas where filariasis is commonly happening. It is also necessary to wear long sleeves and trousers.
  • You should use mosquito repellent on the skin between dusk and dawn.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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