Be Aware of River Blindness

LiveMD wants you to have all of the facts about River Blindness to keep you and your family protected from this debilitating disease.

What is River Blindness?

River Blindness, also known as Onchocerciasis, is present in 36 countries around the world, putting more than 120 million people at risk of becoming infected. Each year 18 million people contract this disease, the majority of them residing in Africa and South America. This disease is the second leading cause of infectious blindness and is cause by a parasitic worm that is passed to its human host through the bite of a blackfly. These flies breed in rivers and streams, putting those living near the water at a higher risk for blindness, which is how the disease got its name. Once bitten, the fly then passes on a parasitic worm to its host. This worm can live inside of the human body for nearly 14 years and grow up to half a meter in length. The female worm produces millions of larvae that migrate throughout the body and when these larvae die they become toxic causing numerous, severe symptoms, blindness being one of them.

What are the Symptoms of River Blindness?

Symptoms of River Blindness include:

  1. Itchy, inflamed skin
  2. Pimple-like rash on the skin
  3. Patchy areas of the skin (commonly known as Leopard Skin)
  4. Severe itching and skin discoloration on one limb (known as Sowda)
  5. Lesions in the eye area
  6. Partial or complete blindness

What Treatment is Available for River Blindness?

Prevention of Onchocerciasis is very difficult as the prevalence of blackflies in certain countries is very high. Wearing long clothing and staying away from areas that are known to have high infection rates can help to protect against blackfly bites. There is a medication available, called Ivermectin, that, when taken once a year, can keep the larvae from moving through the body and will prevent the worm from producing more. This treatment will stop the severe itching associated with this infection and will prevent blindness from occurring. It can also help to stop the spread of this disease.

Many countries have programs in place to offer this medication free of charge for those living in high-risk areas. Initiatives have also been started to help control the population of black flies by killing their larvae using environmentally friendly pesticides. This reduces the amount of blackflies in the area and therefore reduces the amount of people affected by River Blindness.

If you suspect that you have been bitten by a blackfly and may have contracted the parasite responsible for Onchocerciasis, please contact one of our healthcare professionals right away. The doctors at LiveMD have all of the important information that you need to know about River Blindness and can help you get the treatment that you require. Visit today. 

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August 7th, 2016 by