Lymphatic Filariasis

Filariasis is an infectious disease that spreads through mosquito bites. Some people have no symptoms. Others may have inflammation, swelling or fever. Filariasis can lead to lymphedema (fluid retention) or hydrocele (swelling in the scrotum).

Causes of Lymphatic Filariasis

Filariasis is a parasitic infection with a type of roundworm. Tiny worms, too small to see with the naked eye, invade your body. Under a microscope, the filarial worms look like threads.

There are several types of filarial worms:

  • Wuchereria bancrofti causes 9 out of 10 infections.

  • Brugia malayi leads to most of the remaining cases of the disease.

  • Brugia timori also can cause infection.

Symptoms of Lymphatic Filariasis

Some people may experience:

  • Inflammation — an overactivated immune system.

  • Lymphedema — fluid buildup in your lymphatic system.

  • Hydrocele — swelling and fluid buildup in the scrotum.

  • Edema — swelling and fluid buildup in your arms, legs, breasts and female genitals (vulva).

Diagnosis of Lymphatic Filariasis

To diagnose lymphatic filariasis, healthcare providers need to examine a blood sample. They may use:

Microscopic testing

Providers may view your blood sample under a microscope. The microscope allows them to see if your blood has any filarial worms. Filarial worms are nocturnally periodic, meaning they only move in your blood at nighttime. Because of this, you may need to get your blood drawn at night.

Antibody testing

Providers may measure your blood sample for antibodies. Antibodies are organisms that your body creates in response to an infection. You can have this test during the day.

Prevention of Lymphatic Filariasis

The best way to prevent filariasis is to avoid mosquito bites, particularly in tropical areas. If you live in or travel to places where a filariasis infection is possible, take the following steps to prevent mosquito bites:

  • Sleep under a mosquito net.

  • Use insect repellent on exposed skin, especially at night.

  • Wear long pants and long sleeves.

In parts of the world where filariasis is common, the World Health Organization recommends treating whole regions with preventive chemotherapy. With this prevention strategy, people at risk of infection take an annual dose of specific chemotherapy medications.

Treatment of Lymphatic Filariasis


  • You may take anti-parasitic medicines such as ivermectin (Stromectol), diethylcarbamazine (Hetrazan) or albendazole (Albenza).

  • These drugs destroy the adult worms in your blood or keep them from reproducing.

  • Taking these medicines can also prevent passing the infection to someone else. Because the worms may still live in your body, you take these medicines once a year for a few weeks at a time.


You may have surgery to remove dead worms from your bloodstream. If filariasis has caused hydrocele, you may also have surgery to relieve fluid buildup in your scrotum. Elephantiasis management: Your healthcare provider may also recommend strategies to manage swelling, such as elevation or compression garments.

diseases treatments health disorders prevention lymphatic-filariasis lymphatic-system

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