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Elephantiasis, also known as Lymphatic filariasis refers to a parasitic infection that causes extreme swelling in the arms, legs or genitals. Other terms for elephantiasis are Barbados leg, elephant leg, morbus herculeus, mal de Cayenne, and myelolymphangioma.


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. The parasite grows into an adult worm that lives in the lymphatic system of humans.



The symptoms may include:

  • Blocked lymph ducts

  • Brawny skin colour

  • Enlarged groin lymph nodes

  • Fever

  • Fibrotic skin tissue

  • Impaired lymphatic drainage

  • Massive limb swelling


Prevention can be achieved by treating entire groups in which the disease exists, known as mass deworming. The World Health Organization recommends mass deworming. This is done every year for about six years, in an effort to rid a population of the disease entirely.


Efforts to prevent mosquito bites are also recommended, including reducing the number of mosquitoes and promoting the use of bed nets.


The main medication used to treat this condition is diethylcarbamazine or DEC, which kills the microfilariae as well as some adult worms. The medication is usually well tolerated but side effects include dizziness, fever and aching muscles.


Most times medications are not very effective against adult worms, but prevent further spread of the disease until the worms die on their own.



Culled from Staywellworld blog post dated July 26, 2017.

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