Elephantiasis

Definition

noun, plural: elephantiases

A disease of the skin characterized by being thick, rough, hard, and fissured, like an elephant hide


Supplement

Elephantiasis is a thickening and hardening of a body part, i.e. akin to an elephant hide. It may be a symptom of a variety of diseases, such as elephantiasis nostras, elephantiasis tropica (lymphatic filariasis), nonfilarial elephantiasis (podoconiosis), proteus syndrome, etc.

In elephantiasis nostras, the disease affects the legs or scrotum. It resembles the filarial elephantiasis (elephantiasis tropica). However, it results as a complication of chronic lymphedema and not because of filariasis. Nevertheless, both of them results in excess fluid accumulation due to an impaired lymphatic drainage. Another nonfilarial-type of elephantiasis, the podoconiosis, is one in which the swelling is caused by an immune disease affecting the lymph vessels. Proeteus syndrome is a rare congenital disorder resulting in skin overgrowth and atypical bone development.

Elephantiasis caused by filarial roundworm is a complication of chronic filariasis, especially when the filariasis is left untreated for too long. Three types of filarial worms are associated with this disease. They are Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and Brugia timori. They typically occupy the lymphatic system of the definitive host. The filarial worms spread from one human host to another through a mosquito vector that feed on blood of humans, especially at nighttime.


Word origin: Greek elephantos ("elephant") + -iasis (disease, morbid condition)

See also:

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