A person with Lymphatic filariasis A person with Lymphatic filariasis


About Lymphatic Filariasis

Lymphatic filariasis (LF), sometimes known as elephantiasis is a parasitic disease caused by microscopic thread-like worms, which are transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito.

The parasites lodge in the lymphatic system, producing millions of immature larvae that circulate in the blood and cause swelling in the arms, legs and/or genitalia (hydrocele). 

The effects of LF

LF can lead to severe deformities, debilitating fevers and serious damage to the lymphatic system. Fevers can flare up suddenly and an attack makes it impossible to work for several days. Walking can be extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible, for those affected. 

Some of the common effects are:

  • Elephantiasis - Extreme swelling in the arms and legs and thickening of skin
  • Lymphedema - Retention of fluid and tissue swelling
  • Hydrocele - Retention of fluid and swelling of the testes

How is LF cured?

Sadly, there is no cure for LF. However, the disease can be managed through self-care techniques, in order to reduce swelling and pain. A huge part of our work is to travel to remote communities and teach self-care techniques to help people manage their disease effectively. We also work on ways to prevent the disease from spreading further.

For many people affected by LF, walking becomes incredibly difficult and painful, where their feet become swollen, damaged and vulnerable to injury. If an injury occurs and the affected limb becomes infected, a person can be confined to their bed for up to 15 days, losing the ability to work. We provide custom-made protective footwear to ensure people can walk pain and injury-free. Last year we distributed 36,785 pairs of these custom-made shoes.

Prejudice surrounding LF

Due to the prejudice attached to the deformities caused by LF, many people affected are often shunned and abandoned by their loved ones when they need help the most. They often lose their ability to work due to the effects of LF.

LF today

Lymphatic filariasis is the second biggest cause of long-term disability in the world. In the countries we work in there are millions of people already affected by LF; even more, are at risk of contracting the disease. 

  • India accounts for 30% of the world’s lymphatic filariasis burden
  • In Bangladesh, there are currently around 1 million people affected by LF and 70 million at risk of contracting it
  • The physical, social and economic damage caused by LF is immense. 

To combat this we:

  • Use innovative ways to spread health education messages to inform people about LF and treatment.
  • Combine our work in both LF and leprosy to provide services to more people, improve existing healthcare systems, achieve economies of scale and ensure that vital skills are not lost.
  • Have developed and teach self-care techniques to people already affected enabling them to reduce fevers and swelling.
  • Help people to get back to work by providing custom-made shoes and help people form self-help groups to improve their livelihoods.

You can make a difference

Your support is vital in helping us continue our work to help the children, women and men affected by neglected diseases like leprosy and lymphatic filariasis.

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