Loa loa filariasis (also known as loiasis, loaiasis, Calabar swellings, Fugitive swelling, Tropical swelling and African eyeworm) is a skin and eye disease caused by the nematode worm, loa loa. Loiasis is a condition caused by nematode worms. It is transferred through a deerfly vector and is most likely to occur during the rainy season in the rain forests of West and Central Africa. When the larvae of these roundworms are introduced to the bloodstream, they take a few months to develop into adulthood and can migrate into the eye.
If a worm gets to the eye, pain, light sensitivity, and itching typically occur. Even in the rest of the body, these worms can cause itching, pain, and fatigue. Sometimes the adult worms can be seen under the skin. If the worm infection is not treated, it can cause damage to the kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and heart.
Due to the rural location where most of these infections occur, treatment can be tricky. Two medications are available: one just kills the adult worms, while the other kills the adults and the larvae. Unfortunately, the one that also kills the larvae comes with an increased risk of brain inflammation.
For worms that can be seen just under the skin or in the eye, surgery is the easiest way to get rid of them. Using just a little local anesthetic, the surgeon can extract the worm and bring immediate relief to the area. Yes, they really just numb area and then cut a parasitic roundworm out of the eyeball while the patient is still conscious.