Elephantiasis is usually caused by obstructions in the lymphatic system. It causes a swelling in the skin and tissues, generally in the lower trunk and the legs. It is most likely seen in the legs and genitals, causing baggy, thick and ulcerated skin, accompanied by fever and chills. Limbs can swell so much that they will resemble an elephants front leg in size, texture and even color. Elephantiasis has two main forms. Lymphatic filariasis is the most common form, caused by a parasitic disease just from a bite from a little infected mosquito.
This form of Elephantiasis is caused by a parasite, most commonly called roundworms.
The parasite blocks the lymphatic vessels, inhibiting their ability to drain the affected area. This disease can be very painful and will most likely impact the individual’s ability to lead a normal life. A severe case can block blood vessels, which will limit the blood flow to the skin causing inflammation and possible gangrenous.
Elephantiasis is recognized as the second leading cause of disability worldwide because of its physical and psychological impact to the affected individual. An economic burden is also a huge issue, although treatments are available, those who are affected are usually from the poor community so they cannot afford the drugs to help cure them.
The physical impact is very obvious to the infected because of the edema. It makes it very difficult for them to move around to do their daily activities. Most will have thickening skin and a very strong body odor. Because of these symptoms they usually are unemployed making life a struggle for money. Elephantiasis is known to be a disease of poverty because it is endemic to poor tropical countries. It is a public health and socio-economic problem worldwide. It affects 120 million people in over 80 countries. The disease is prevalent in urban and rural areas affecting people of all ages and sexes.