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Elephantiasis - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Written By : Dr. James Pendergraft 
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Elephantiasis is a common medical predicament that causes the underlying tissues of the body in both genders to thicken causing them to look like elephant limbs. In the cases of males, elephantiasis can even affect the scrotum and make it the size of a softball.

Elephantiasis is caused due to the parasitic worms like b. timori and others which are transmitted by mosquitoes. Though these are the worms that are responsible for the transmission of elephantiasis, the actual reason is quite complex and depends on various aspects like the hosts immune response.

The adult worms can live only in the lymphatic system of the humans and therefore obstruct the lymphatic vessels. This obstruction creates a swelling in the torso and also in the legs and the genitals. Medical research has not found out whether the swelling is because of the parasite or because of the immune system's response to the parasite.

This parasite is mostly found in countries like Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia and Uganda. Out of these, Ethiopia is the most affected with more than six percent of the population living in endemic areas being affected.

The treatment for elephantiasis depends on the geographical location of the patient. for people who live in sub Saharan Africa, the drug albendazole and ivermectin are used. In other places, one can use diethylcarbamazine along with albendazole. Medical science is combating elephantiasis every day, and research shows that elephantiasis can be completely eradicated by 2020.

Elephantiasis can also affect the male and female genital organs. In males, the scrotum may get enlarged and the male organ may get retracted under thick, non elastic skin that is hot and painful. Elephantiasis may also cause a thickening of the spermatic cords.

In females, the vulva may be affected by elephantiasis. A mass, that is covered by thickened and ulcerated skin may be seen between the thighs. Another important aspect is that elephantiasis may cause an enlarged lymph nodes in the legs.

Elephantiasis can also be cured with rigorous cleaning of the affected area and in the case of scrotal elephantiasis, one can try the surgical treatments. However surgery for the limbs is ineffective.

One can also combat elephantiasis with hygiene. Wearing shoes consistently so that the feet do not come in contact with irritant soil, soaking daily in antiseptic water, and washing the hands and feet with soap and water regularly. Elephantiasis can also be treated by using elastic bandages. In the case of infection, one needs to use antibiotics. The most common antibiotic used for elephantiasis is doxycycline, which can be treat lymphatic filariasis effectively. Other drugs that are used are ANtrypol, Ivermectin, Mebendazole and Levamisole amongst other.

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