Elephantiasis - What is Elephantiasis?

Elephantiasis is a disease that is characterized by the thickening of the skin and underlying tissues, especially in the legs, male genitals.

In some cases the disease can cause certain body parts, such as the scrotum, to swell to the size of a softball or basketball. "Elephantitis" is a common mis-hearing of the term, from confusing the ending ''-iasis'' (process or resulting condition) with the more commonly heard ''-itis'' (irritation or inflammation).

Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis. Luzon, Philippines.
Elephantiasis of leg due to filariasis. Luzon, Philippines. Image Credit: CDC

The proper medical term is Elephantiasis, and it is caused by filariasis or podoconiosis.

Elephantiasis leads to mark swelling of the lower half of the body.

Elephantiasis caused by lymphatic filariasis is one of the most common causes of disability in the world.

Elephantiasis puts at risk more than a billion people in more than 80 countries. Over 120 million have already been affected by it, over 40 million of them are seriously incapacitated and disfigured by the disease.

One-third of the people infected with the disease live in India, one third are in Africa and most of the remainder are in South Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. In tropical and subtropical areas where lymphatic filariasis is well-established, the prevalence of infection is continuing to increase.

A primary cause of this increase is the rapid and unplanned growth of cities, which creates numerous breeding sites for the mosquitoes that transmit the disease.

Further Reading

This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Elephantiasis" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Last Updated: Nov 6, 2013

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