Onchocerciasis (River Blindness)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

What are onchocerciasis symptoms and signs?

The symptoms and signs of onchocerciasis are as follows:

  • Skin inflammation that is very itchy and forms papules on the skin
  • Nodules in the skin (subcutaneous nodules or bumps)
  • Scarred, saggy, or drooping areas of skin
  • Patchy skin depigmentation (leopard skin)
  • Lymph node inflammation (lymphadenitis)
  • Eye (ocular) lesions (eye itching, redness, or swelling)
  • Visual problems (visual impairment and/or inability to distinguish certain colors, partial or complete blindness)
  • Eosinophilia (unusually high levels of eosinophils in the blood)
  • "Sowda" is a term used to describe the severe itching and skin discoloration (darkening), that is often confined to one limb, that can be found with onchocerciasis.

Is there an incubation period for onchocerciasis?

Although the infection with larvae begins immediately, the disease may not become apparent in an individual for months to years. In most individuals, it develops slowly in the skin although some patients may present initially with eye problems.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/16/2016

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