Communicable Diseases
Elephantiasis
 

Overview:

  • Elephantiasis is a parasitic disease occurs due to infection by mosquito bites.
  • Lymph vessels are obstructed by worms causing accumulation of lymphatic fluid and enlargement. 
  • Many cases of infection are asymptomatic. These asymptomatic infections still cause damage to the lymphatic system and the kidneys. 
  • The disease can be managed with drug.
  • Avoiding mosquito bites and eliminating breeding places is the best way for prevention.
Introduction:
Elephantiasis is a parasitic disease caused by mosquito bites infection usually acquired in childhood causing damage to the lymphatic system. It can lead to enlargement of body parts particularly the limbs. It also spreads from person to person through mosquitoes. 

Other Names:
Lymphatic filariasis

Causes:
Infection occurs when thread-like filarial parasites are transmitted to humans through mosquitoes. Adult worms lodge in the lymphatic vessels and disrupt the normal function of the lymphatic system, causing obstruction and accumulation of lymphatic fluid and enlargement of infected areas. The worms can live in the lymph glands for approximately 6–8 years and, during their life time, produce millions of microfilariae (immature larvae) that circulate in the blood.

Risk Factors:
  • Living in mosquito breeding sites.
  • Inflammation of lymph vessels.
  • Some work tasks (Such as: workers in humanitarian field and military personnel). 
  • Travelling to or residing in affected areas. 
Symptoms:
The majority of infections are asymptomatic, causing damage to the lymphatic system and the kidneys without signs (this stage may last for several months). In other cases, acute and chronic symptoms may appear, when the disease develops into chronic condition it leads to: 
  • Elevated body temperature. 
  • Headache, shivering and feeling tired.
  • Swelling and enlargement of skin, tissues and limbs (lymphatic edema).
  • Genitals swelling.
  • Ulceration and roughness in the skin.
  • The skin is darker than normal.
When to see a Doctor?
When temperature increases continuously and having the risk factors. 

Complications:
It may lead to disability due to swelling and inability to do daily tasks, in addition to deformities and sexual problems. 

Diagnosis:
  • Medical history.
  • Physical exam.
  • Lab tests: blood tests. 
Treatment:
There are no medicines to treat elephantiasis, however it can be controlled using the following medications:
  • Ivermectin.
  • Bindazole.
These medications eliminate larvae and prevent their reproduction. Surgical intervention can also be used to relieve pressure on the lymphatic system.

Prevention:
Avoiding mosquito bites is the best form of prevention, including:
  • Sleep under a mosquito net.
  • Eliminating mosquito breeding places such as water basins whether inside or outside the home
  • Cover your body with long sleeves clothes. 
  • Use mosquito repellent cream inside and outside your home. 
  • Ensure that window screens have no holes that allow insects to enter.
Tips for Elephantiasis Patients:
  • Maintain cleanness of the infected part to prevent aggravation of the lymphedema and secondary skin infections.
  • Exercise the swollen arm or leg regularly to aid lymphatic flow.​







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