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Filariasis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment



Filariasis (elephant foot) is common in tropical countries and is caused by parasitic nematode worms that look like tiny threads.

The disease is caused by nematode worms called Filariae-Wuchereria Bancrofti, Brugia Malayi and Brugia Timori. Most cases of filariasis are caused by a parasite called Wuchereria bancrofti.

Filariasis is the leading cause of disability and deformity worldwide. This happens mostly to poor people because the breeding of mosquitoes is high where poor people live.

The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) has launched one of the largest public health campaigns in the history of India to provide free medicines to protect over 400 million people from filariasis.

Filariasis or Elephantiasis

In India, 500 million people are at risk of developing filariasis, and currently, more than 23 million people are suffering from filariasis.

Types of Filariasis

There are three types of filariasis depending on which area of ​​the body the parasitic worms affect:

  1. Lymphatic Filariasis or Elephantiasis: This affects the lymphatic system as well as the lymph nodes (lymphocytes).
  1. Subcutaneous Filariasis: It affects the layer below the skin.
  1. Serous Cavity Filariasis: It affects the serous cavity of the stomach.

Stages of Filariasis

There are 5 cycles in the life of Phaleria worms.

Read – 2 Min

Filariasis Symptoms

Filariasis does not initially cause any symptoms. Problems begin when the adult worms die.

The symptoms of filariasis are as follows –

1. In Lymphatic Filariasis or Elephantiasis

Edema (swelling) as well as thickening of the skin folds and tissues under the skin layer. It can affect the arms, vulva, breasts, and testicles (hydrocele formation).

The breast and genital area can become very enlarged compared to their normal size due to the blockage of lymph vessels.

2. In Subcutaneous Filariasis
3. Serious Cavity Filariasis
Filariasis Symptoms

Filariasis causes

Lymphatic filariasis is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito or when a person comes into contact with water where infected mosquitoes breed.

When parasitic worms are transmitted to a person, they affect the lymphatic system (which is the body’s network of nerves and nodes that carry lymph fluid to the vessels and blood). The lymphatic system plays a vital role in our health as it is a major part of our body’s immune system.

Adult worms live in the lymphatic veins for 4–6 years, and female worms give birth to a large number of larvae (babies of worms) in the bloodstream.

This infection is spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and then the same mosquito bites another person. These microfilariae develop into adult insects and remain in the body for many years. These adults give rise to worms and also microfilariae and this cycle goes on.

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Filariasis prevention

The best way to avoid filariasis is to avoid mosquito bites. The mosquitoes that transmit the disease usually bite in the morning and evening.

At night

In the morning and evening

Use medications that kill microscopic insects and control mosquitoes in the area you live in. If such drugs are used every year, the level of microscopic worms in the blood can be reduced, and the risk of transmitting the infection can be reduced.

Some other preventive measures


The following procedures are used to diagnose filariasis:

Filariasis Diagnosis

Filariasis treatment

The use of Diethylcarbamazine is prescribed for the treatment of filariasis. It kills microfilariae but has no effect on adult insects. It only controls the transmission of infection.

This medicine may cause a reaction in some people. Ivermectin and albendazole may also be useful for some patients. Bacterial infection can be avoided by keeping the affected area clean.

The affected limb should be kept elevated and exercise should be done daily to improve the flow of lymph. Use aerosols, creams to keep mosquitoes away, and coils, and by maintaining hygiene, do not allow mosquitoes to breed.


If you are bitten by mosquitoes for a few months, then you can get lymphatic filariasis.

Read – 3 Min

Complications caused by filariasis

The disease can be asymptomatic (without any symptoms), acute, or long-lasting.

For people who are suffering from filariasis, it is necessary to keep the affected areas of the body clean.

Frequently asked questions

What to eat during filariasis?

The following foods should be consumed in filariasis:

Filariasis caused by which mosquito?

Filariasis are mainly caused by the parasite known as Wuchereria bancrofti. The disease is also caused by Brugia Malayi and Brugia Timori.

Is filariasis a communicable disease?

filariasis is highly contagious disease. It does not communicate from human to human directly but the infection spreads rapidly when a mosquito bites an infected person and then the same mosquito bites another person.

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