Elephantiasis refers to a parasitic infection that causes extreme swelling in the arms and legs. The disease is caused by the filarial worm, which is transmitted from human to human via the female mosquito when it takes a blood meal. Other areas commonly affected include the external genitals. Elephantiasis is caused by obstruction of the lymphatic system, which results in the accumulation of a fluid called lymph in the affected areas.
HOW IS ELEPHANTIASIS DIAGNOSED?
The diagnosis of the condition will be done by a general physician who will conduct fever and flu tests as well as blood tests that will try to find the cause of the pain and swelling. A detailed evaluation of past medical history will also be taken.
HOW IS ELEPHANTIASIS TREATED?
Treatment of elephantiasis usually involves treating the underlying condition. Lymphatic filariasis is treated with diethylcarbamazine. Donovanosis may be treated with azithromycin. However, in many cases, medical therapy alone is not enough and surgery may be necessary. In cases where the male genitals have been affected, reconstructive surgery on the penis and scrotum has been successful. Antistreptococcal antibiotics are used to relieve secondary infection. Lymphatic tissue may be removed by surgery or radiation therapy.
DID YOU KNOW?
Elephantiasis is found mainly in poorer countries, money for research into the cure and prevention of the disease has been limited. Effective treatment and preventive efforts would include:
• spraying to kill mosquitoes
• giving antibiotics to prevent infection
• giving medications to kill microfilariae circulating in the blood
• applying pressure bandages to reduce swelling
• surgically removing infected tissue.