I am tired of taking medications, visiting doctors every week, and undergoing so many tests! But I have no option. I am suffering from a severe parasitic infection called Lymphatic filariasis. It has affected my health severely due to which I am suffering from many unpleasant symptoms. Here is how my life has changed due to Lymphatic filariasis.
Waking up in the morning
Lymphatic filariasis has caused a lot of disability. As I said earlier, it has affected many organs in my body at a time. This disease basically occurs due to the infection by the filarial parasites and causes impairment of the lymphatic system. It is this impairment that is responsible for the abnormal enlargement of my body parts, the pain, and disability I am suffering from.
My legs are swollen and look like the legs of elephants. Perhaps, for this reason, Lymphatic filariasis is also called Elephantiasis. The doctor has advised me to sleep with my legs raised above by keeping 2 or 3 pillows below them. Though this helps to reduce the swelling to some extent, I find it difficult to sleep peacefully. I often get up without feeling fresh.
Starting the day
The doctor told me this infection spreads from one person to another due to the bite of the mosquitoes infected with Wuchereria Bancrofti, Brugia Timori, or Brugia Malayi. To prevent the breeding of these mosquitos, our day begins with cleaning the entire house with disinfectants.
The swelling in my legs, and arms have made me dependent on others for simple things like brushing my teeth and taking a bath. My family members help me brush my teeth. However, I loathe this kind of life wherein I have become dependent on others. I have lost my freedom and even my self-esteem!
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner
I make sure that everything I eat or drink is healthy and prepared under hygienic precautions. I eat a balanced, nutritious diet to ensure my body is better able to fight the infection. I have stopped eating outside food and eat only the home-cooked food. These measures should help me prevent reinfection due to other parasites or bacteria.
Going to work and taking medications
It is not possible for me to travel to the office considering the large swelling I have in my legs. I am working from home. However, I cannot work for prolonged hours due to the swelling in my hands. I cannot work fast on the keyboard due to the swollen fingers.
I have to use a stylus or move my fingers carefully while working on my laptop. The doctor is treating me with the antiparasitic drugs, albendazole and ivermectin, a permanent cure suposed to improve the symphoms I have. Luckily, I have not developed swelling in the scrotal region. It is a common complication of Lymphatic Filariasis affecting men that has to be corrected with surgical treatment.
Prevention of complications
The doctor has advised me to follow the disability prevention and morbidity management methods to prevent the worsening of the quality of my life. He has told me it’s vital for improving my health and sustainability. He has also asked me to undergo routine tests to monitor the progress of this condition. I have to visit the doctor once a week for the same. This has limited my life to a great extent. My life is confined to just being at home and traveling to the hospital.
What are the daily limitations and what are the fears?
The fear of complications of this infection is gripping me. I am worried not just about how to carry out the routine activities but also about my future. My future has become uncertain! Though this infection may not cause any life-threatening consequences, the chances of recovering completely and being able to live a normal life are less.
I have to depend on others for help. This has also affected my self-confidence. I am taking the right precautions to control this disease. However, even the doctors are unable to assure me convincingly that I would ever be able to enjoy my life as I did before!
How does the future look like?
I have already developed swelling in my legs and hands. Because of this, I am unable to travel alone. I can’t drive. I find it difficult to take up the public transport due to the inability to climb the steps properly. I have to depend on someone to drive me to the hospital. But, that’s not the end of my sufferings! Elephantiasis may also cause several other complications like hydrocele. The things may get more difficult for me if I develop such complications.
What are the risk factors?
The doctor told me I might have contracted this infection during my childhood. It seems the disease usually affects the children and remains hidden for several years. The symptoms begin to appear during adulthood. However, taking proper care to avoid mosquito bites such as wearing long sleeves and using mosquito repellents can help to reduce the risk of this infection.
The evolution of Lymphatic filariasis
Do you know that the adult worms responsible for causing Filariasis can lodge in the lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels and cause disruption in the normal functioning of the lymphatic system? These worms have a lifespan of 6–8 years.
During their period, they reside in the body of a human and produce millions of microfilariae that circulate in the body. In short, I am living with these organisms residing and multiplying within my body since my childhood. But, now these worms have started showing symptoms. The symptoms may become worse and cause severe complications in the future.
What are the psychological effects when you have Elephantiasis?
I cannot travel to my office. Working from home is also an option I am trying to manage with. However, I am not sure for how long I will be able to continue working from home. In case the swelling in my hands and fingers becomes worse, I may have to resign from my job. I am already dependent on my family for routine asks. I might become dependent on them financially also if I lose my job!