Elephantiasis: Definition, Causes, Process of Regenerating, Symptoms, and Prevention

elephantiasis diagnosis

It is a common disease in Africa; it is a significant disease that shows how much damage can be caused by mosquito or worms.

Elephantiasis is just the second level of the infection of Filaria. Now let’s take a look at the necessary information about this disease.

Introduction and Causes

A micro germ causes Elephantiasis, or scientifically known as Lymphatic Filariasis. Wuchereria Bancrofti is the responsible parasitic worm.

The mosquito takes shelter in the human body. They use human body for reproduction. On the second stage, this mosquito spread its eggs from man to man.

Elephantiasis is the stage when one or more than one organ gets affected by this worm. It starts to grow abnormally. The growth rate creates a lot of inconvenience in the victim.

So, the fundamental spreading strategy is the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Only the female species of this insect bears the worm. So, this mosquito is primarily responsible for Elephantiasis.

Lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis, is a disease in which the legs or other parts of the body become abnormally significant as a result of a blockage of the lymphatic system.

Parasites called filariae cause the infection; they get transmitted by mosquitoes. People usually contract the disease during their childhood; such condition causes asymptomatic damage to the lymphatic system.

Painful and profoundly disfiguring manifestations of the disease appear later and lead to permanent disability.

Process of Regenerating

First of all the mosquito bites a person and its saliva contain a lot of worms-eggs. When they are mixed up with the human blood, it takes shelter in the lymphocyte.

The most relevant step of reproduction starts in this period. The flow of blood decreases. The immune system of the human body cannot fight against this unexpected worm.


Most infections are asymptomatic, although they can cause damage to the lymphatic system and kidneys, as well as deficiencies in the immune system, without the person showing visible symptoms.

When it develops in chronic conditions, it leads to swelling and thickening of the underlying skin and tissues.

Lymphatic filariasis obstructs the lymphatic channels, leading to inflammation and scarring of the legs or arms, known as elephantiasis, and in men, swelling of the scrotum, or hydrocele.

These symptoms are incredibly disabling. These conditions disfigure the body, and in many communities around the world, people with the disease are stigmatized, causing social and economic problems for the individual.

Infection with lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) is usually acquired in childhood, causing damage to the lymphatic system that initially does not give symptoms.

In fact, most lymphatic filariasis is asymptomatic without producing any external signs, although damage to the lymphatic system, kidneys, and immune system is occurring.

Occasionally, the only symptom is the presence of one or more chronic inflamed lymph nodes.

Acute lymphangitis (inflammation of the lymphatic vessels) or lymphadenitis (inflammation of the lymph nodes) can sometimes occur with inflammation of the skin, fever, headache, backache, and nausea.

Other times, due to the blockage of the lymph, acute inflammation of the testicles may occur. Usually, these acute episodes resolve themselves after a few days or weeks.

In cases of elephantiasis in which a long-term evolution occurs, it is when the disease is chronic, even if the adult worms end up dying.

The hydrocele – increase of the size of the scrotum – is in men the most frequent sign, with significant sexual and reproductive disability. Also in women can affect the external genitalia and even the breasts.

In the legs, the edema with the fovea (swelling of the leg in which there is a gap when pressed with the finger) initially develops in the area of the tibia, which can progressively affect the lower limb.

Finally, in the elephantiasis phase, the skin of the leg or scrotum is thickened, with fissures and verrucous lesions, which can also become infected or ulcerate.

In some extreme cases, you may get to present urine, which is the discharge of lymph.

All these symptoms of elephantiasis produce social disability and stigma, with economic difficulties due to the impossibility of working and the increase of medical expenses.

The result caused by the germ

The growth rate of the glands starts to rise at an unusual level. The affected person loses the power of sexual reproduction. Mostly the male patients see the significant growth in the scrotum and testicles.

Elephantiasis can affect elbows or knees too. The leg becomes a lot heavier. These are the real syndrome of Elephantiasis.

The Prevention of Elephantiasis

Getting rid of the mosquito bite is the primary prevention. Using the anti-mosquito cream in the body and net while sleeping is very useful. But for a patient, there is a little chance of reversing the disease.

Hormonal medicines can be beneficial in the curing process. The World Health Organizations has taken several steps to make Africa free from this unfortunate disease.

It is recommended to treat elephantiasis with antiparasitic drugs to patients with acute lymphatic involvement and asymptomatic patients. Diethylcarbamazine (DEC), which kills both adult worms and larvae, is used for 12 days.

Experts could add another antiparasitic called albendazole or the antibiotic doxycycline, which kills the adult worms by their activity against an endosymbiont of these (Wolbachia).

Ivermectin is another antiparasitic that kills microfilariae. Also, additional treatment should be given in cases of lymphangitis or acute lymphadenitis with drugs for fever and pain and antibiotics if there is evidence of associated bacterial infection.

In people with chronic manifestations of elephantiasis, a treatment based on hygienic measures, prevention of cutaneous bacterial infections and physiotherapy should be performed to try to improve swelling.

Inflammation of the scrotum can be improved with drainage or surgically.

Some medical experts save antiparasitic drugs in chronic cases for those patients who have active infection data (presence of a live adult or micro-filarial worms).

Side effects of treatment of lymphatic filariasis with DEC or ivermectin are fever, chills, joint pains, headache, nausea, and vomiting.

The intensity of the symptoms depends on the number of larvae in the blood and the substances released by the parasites upon their death.

Recently, Satoshi Omura and William Campbell were awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of avermectin (from which ivermectin derives), whose use in the treatment of elephantiasis is helping the decline in the number of cases affected by this serious problem.