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Leishmaniasis

Also called: Kala-azar

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of infected sand flies. There are several different forms of leishmaniasis. The most common are cutaneous and visceral. The cutaneous type causes skin sores. The visceral type affects internal organs such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. People with this form usually have fever, weight loss, and an enlarged spleen and liver.

Leishmaniasis is found in parts of about 88 countries. Most of these countries are in the tropics and subtropics. It is possible but very unlikely that you would get this disease in the United States. But you should be aware of it if you are traveling to the Middle East or parts of Central America, South America, Asia, Africa or southern Europe.

Treatment is with medicines that contain antimony, a type of metal, or with strong antibiotics. The best way to prevent the disease is to protect yourself from sand fly bites:

  • Stay indoors from dusk to dawn, when sand flies are the most active
  • Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when outside
  • Use insect repellent and bed nets as needed

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Symptoms of Leishmaniasis

The following features are indicative of Leishmaniasis:
  • skin sores
  • difficulty in breathing
  • stuffy nose
  • runny nose
  • difficulty in swallowing
  • cough
  • diarrhea
  • vomiting
  • fever
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • appetite loss
  • abdominal discomfort
  • night sweats
  • thinning hair
  • weight loss
It is possible that Leishmaniasis shows no physical symptoms and still be present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Leishmaniasis

The following are the most common causes of Leishmaniasis:
  • leishmania protozoa

Risk Factors for Leishmaniasis

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Leishmaniasis:
  • malnutrition body
  • deforestation
  • lack of sanitation and urbanization

Prevention of Leishmaniasis

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Leishmaniasis. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • avoid getting bitten by a sand fly
  • wear clothing that covers as much skin as possible
  • use insect repellent on any exposed skin
  • putting fine mesh netting around the bed

Occurrence of Leishmaniasis

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Leishmaniasis cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Leishmaniasis can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Leishmaniasis can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Leishmaniasis

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Leishmaniasis:
  • Biopsy: To evaluate the species of parasite causing the infection
  • Direct agglutination assay: To diagnose the infection
  • Blood tests: To assess the antibody (an immune response) to the parasite
  • Polymerase chain reaction test: To determine the Leishmania DNA

Complications of Leishmaniasis if untreated

Yes, Leishmaniasis causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Leishmaniasis is left untreated:
  • hemorrhage
  • deadly infections due to immune system damage
  • disfigurement of the face

Procedures for Treatment of Leishmaniasis

The following procedures are used to treat Leishmaniasis:
  • Plastic surgery: To correct the disfigurement caused by sores on the face

Self-care for Leishmaniasis

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Leishmaniasis:
  • Protect yourself from sand fly bites
  • Limiting the nocturnal outdoor activities
  • Applying insect repellent to exposed skin
  • Wearing protective clothing

Patient Support for Treatment of Leishmaniasis

The following actions may help Leishmaniasis patients:
  • Join supporting national leishmaniasis control programmes: Provides updated guidelines about the disease control plans

Time for Treatment of Leishmaniasis

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Leishmaniasis to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • In 1 - 3 months

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Leishmaniasis.
Parasitic Diseases
Traveler's Health

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