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Onchocerciasis – Signs and Symptoms

Onchocerciasis

is also called ‘river blindness’ and is the second leading cause of blindness due to to infection worldwide. In extreme cases of onchocerciasis, this parasitic disease may cause blindness. It is known as river blindness because the blackfly, which is the host, survives in the riverside areas. In 37 countries of Latin America, Africa and Yemen, around 120 million people are afflicted with this disease. Most frequently, the river farmlands are isolated for fear of this infection. According to experts, it has been estimated that nearly 18 million individuals are infected with this disease, 6.5 million suffer from dermatitis or severe itching, 770,000 individuals suffer sight problems and 270,000 are blind. Read on to know more about the signs and symptoms of onchocerciasis.

Signs and Symptoms of Onchocerciasis

The adult worms are present in the subcutaneous nodules of the human body. Hence, they limit the action of the host’s immune system. When the microfilariae die, they instigate intense inflammatory response. These dying microfilariae produce

Wolbachia Surface Protein

which activates the TLR2 and TLR4 (initiating innate immune responses). These proteins induce the inflammation. The severity of the infection depends on the amount of microfilariae present in the body.

If the skin is involved, then inflammation, swelling and intense itching may occur. These symptoms have been graded as per skin involvement:

  • Depigmentation

    – This causes a ‘leopard skin’ appearance. This occurs on the anterior lower leg.

  • Skin atrophy

    – In this case, the skin loses elasticity, resembles a tissue paper and looks like ‘lizard skin’.

  • Lichenified onchodermatitis

    – This forms hyperpigmented plaques and papules associated with edema.

  • Chronic papular onchodermatitis

    – Forms larger papule which leads to hyperpigmentation.

  • Acute papular onchodermatitis

    – Formation of scattered pruritic papules.

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