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What is Elephantiasis?

Elephantiasis is also called lymphatic filariasis.

What Causes Elephantiasis?

Elephantiasis is caused by several different types of parasitic worms, including Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and B. timori.

Elephantiasis is transmitted by female mosquitoes. When an infected female mosquito bites a person, she may inject the worm larvae into the bloodstream. The worm larvae reproduce and spread throughout the bloodstream, where they can live for many years.

Symptoms of Elephantiasis

In many cases, symptoms of elephantiasis do not appear until years after infection. As the parasites accumulate in the blood vessels, they can restrict circulation and cause fluid to build up in surrounding tissues.

Symptoms of acute infection of elephantiasis are:

  • Fever
  • Pain in testicles
  • Pain above testicles
  • Enlarged groin lymph nodes

Symptoms of chronic infection of elephantiasis are:

  • Massively swollen legs, genitalia and breasts
  • White urinary discharge
  • Swollen liver
  • Swollen spleen

Can Elephantiasis be Treated?

Yes, elephantiasis can be treated with medication. Medicines to treat lymphatic filariasis are most effective when used soon after infection, but they do have some toxic side effects. In addition, elephantiasis is difficult to detect early. In severe cases, surgery may be needed.

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