Elephantiasis is the term used to describe grossly enlarged or excessively swollen arms, legs or genitalia. Caused by severe lymphedema, it’s visually marked by giant elephant legs and/or huge arms due to blocked lymph nodes.
Elephantiasis is most common in the legs. Typically beginning in the ankle and progressing up.
Initially your giant legs or huge arms may feel soft. But eventually they’ll harden and your skin thickens, with possible cracking. As a crack consequence, bacterial skin infections can complicate your health as well.
There are a couple different causes of elephantiasis. Yet, lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic infection strewn around via mosquito bites, is the principal creator for causing severe lymphedema’s giant arms and legs.
In most cases, the severe lymphedema that causes elephantiasis is the result of filarial worms blocking fluid draining passages within your lymphatic system. Thus, fluid builds up in your tissue and the outcome is enormous swelling. In the legs it bears a resemblance to those of an elephant.
Other health situations that can cause elephantiasis are:
- recurrent strep infections
- lymph node removal ~ usually to prevent cancer from spreading
Elephantiasis is a severely disfiguring and disabling condition.
The parasitic infection that commonly causes elephantiasis is found in underdeveloped regions of South America, Central Africa, Asia, Pacific Islands and Caribbean. Its symptoms beyond severe lymphedema involves an allergic reaction to the secretions produced by the worms, such as:
- bone pain
- enlarged lymph nodes
- skin abscesses, ulcers
Elephantiasis doesn’t become a giant elephant leg and huge arm issue until years after your initial infection. Whereas, treatment of lymphatic filariasis is most effective when administered soon after the parasite’s invasion.