Elephantiasis – the general name of diseases, which are associated with the violation of lymph drainage. Elephantiasis is a disease of humans and some animal species: a significant increase in the individual parts of the body due to a sharp thickening of the skin and subcutaneous tissue due to chronic inflammation of the lymph, which is the flow of lymph from the surrounding tissues and lymph stagnation. Usually, the upper and lower limbs are affected, but often swelling of the scrotum, vulva and breasts are observed. Soft tissue swelling is sometimes very significant. Swelling can be treated only at the beginning of the disease, but with time the skin and subcutaneous tissue is thickened, and the consequences of the disease become irreversible.
For about one fifth of patients with elephantiasis lymphatic system failure is caused by hereditary predisposition. In the body of a healthy person lymph circulates – a colorless liquid that is formed from blood plasma through its filtering interstitial space and from there to the lymphatic system. Lymph through the lymph vessels comes back to the heart. If the damage and obstruction of lymph vessels, lymph flow is slowed down and the corresponding part of the body swells. Congenital elephantiasis is not always present at birth. It can manifest itself much later, even after 35 years. Usually the cause of elephantiasis is a disease which has breached patency of lymphatic vessels. Most often it is long and infectious disease, such as erysipelas, bladderwort, leprosy and filariasis (in tropical countries). Lymph nodes can be destroyed by malignant tumors. In addition, lymphatic vessels can be damaged during surgery.
First, doctors treat the underlying disease that has caused elephantiasis. Swelling of the upper and lower extremities can be treated with compression stockings, tights and gloves, which are chosen individually according to size. So-called lymphatic drainage is used (a special massage technique). Medication, that reduces swelling, are prescribed. In recent years, microsurgical lymphatic transplant successfully is performed.
Compression stockings help only if the patient wears them all the time. However, for aesthetic reasons, these socks are most often are left in the closet. In the absence of timely and appropriate treatment, tissue eventually becomes thicker and further treatment is ineffective. Patients with elephantiasis should keep the feet up.
It is important to fully recover from infectious diseases. If you experience swelling of the upper and lower limbs or other body parts, you should see a doctor.
Different diseases may be the cause of elephantiasis, so the doctor will try to establish an accurate diagnosis.
There is a big chance that elephantiasis disappear spontaneously with timely treatment and complete cure of the underlying disease. However, if the swelling does not go away or impossible to eliminate their causes, the patient should be treated for his entire life.
When the swelling of the lower and upper extremities after visiting tropical countries, it is necessary to see a doctor and tell him about this journey. This will help establish the diagnosis.
Common causes of leg edema – the diseases of the heart or veins, not lymphedema. Edema is usually located around the tarsus.