Causes, incidence, and risk factors
There are different forms of leishmaniasis.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis affects the skin and mucus membranes. Skin sores usually start at the site of the sandfly bite. They can last for months or years before healing on their own. In a few people, sores may develop on mucus membranes.
Systemic, or visceral leishmaniasis affects the entire body. This form occurs 2 - 8 months after a person is bitten by the sandfly. Most people do not remember having a skin sore. This form can lead to deadly complications. The parasites damage the immune system by decreasing the numbers of disease-fighting cells.
Cases of leishmaniasis have been reported on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. In the Americas, leishmaniasis can be found in Mexico and South America. Leishmaniasis has been reported in military personnel returning from the Persian Gulf.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis affects the skin and sometimes the mucus membranes. Symptoms may include: Skin sores, which may become a skin ulcer that heals very slowly Ulcers and wearing away (erosion) in the mouth, tongue, gums, lips, nose, and inner nose Stuffy nose, runny nose, and nosebleeds Breathing difficulty Swallowing difficulty Systemic visceral infection in children usually begins suddenly with vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cough. Adults usually have a fever for 2 weeks to 2 months, along with symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and appetite loss. Weakness increases as the disease gets worse.
Other symptoms of systemic visceral leishmaniasis may include:
Belly area (abdominal) discomfort Cough (children) Diarrhea (children) Fever that lasts for weeks; may come and go in cycles Night sweats Scaly, gray, dark, ashen skin Thinning hair Vomiting (children) Weight loss
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