14.01.2019 Feature Article

Elephantiasis – The Disease Tells You Why It Has That Name

Two female elephantiasis patients in AfricaTwo female elephantiasis patients in Africa
14.01.2019 LISTEN

Elephantiasis, also known as lymphatic filariasis, is a condition that features with abnormal accumulation of lymph caused by inappropriate drainage of lymph which leads to huge edemas.

Legs are most commonly affected. Still, other parts of the body such as testicles may be enlarged as well. The skin becomes thicker and the edema can be so huge that impedes the majority of routine activities.

Elephantiasis can be classified into two groups. The first one includes the disease caused by parasites such as Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia timori, and Brugia malyai. The other group is non-parasitic elephantiasis.

The parasites which are transmitted by mosquitoes settle in lymph nodes and right there they cause the obstruction in lymphatic drainage. In some cases, the exposure to certain toxic substances may be the cause of elephantiasis.

Elephantiasis presents with relatively obvious symptoms especially if the disease has progressed. Edema and great enlargement of the affected body parts are quite visible.

The skin above the swellings is thick and sometimes due to prolonged friction, there may be skin ulcers present. Increased body temperature is present in some cases.

The enlarged body parts are mostly painless. However, some patient may complain about pain in the affected area. In undeveloped parts of the world, people can get infected by the parasite and they tend not to visit a doctor until the swelling becomes morbidly huge.

The basic concept of the treatment is to eradicate all the parasites and their larvae that are present within the body. Albendazole and diethylcarbamazine are medications that are used for this purpose and are efficient in the killing of both in adult forms of the parasite and the larvae.

In some regions of the world, patients are additionally given ivermectin. These medications may have some side effects like increased body temperature pain in muscles and headache. Diethylcarbamazine is additionally helpful in reduction of the enlarged lymphatics.

If under any circumstances a patient develops an allergy on this medication, the therapy will also include corticosteroids and antihistaminics. Even certain medications may be effective in treating elephantiasis. They include doxycycline.

The affected area must be washed and dried and the skin has to be taken care of as there are possible complications such as skin ulcers and secondary skin infection.

If the condition is not caused by the parasite one may be advised to keep away from potential irritants and toxic substances. Elastic bandages may be tightened the extremities hence reduce the swelling.

And finally, elephantiasis of some body parts such as testicular elephantiasis may be surgically treated