Elephantiasis

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

Important
It is possible that the main title of the report Elephantiasis is not the name you expected. Please check the synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and disorder subdivision(s) covered by this report.

Synonyms

  • Idiopathic Elephantiasis

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Elephantiasis is a condition characterized by gross enlargement of an area of the body, especially the limbs. Other areas commonly affected include the external genitals. Elephantiasis is caused by obstruction of the lymphatic system, which results in the accumulation of a fluid called lymph in the affected areas.

Functioning as part of the immune system, the lymphatic system helps to protect the body against infection and disease. It consists of a network of tubular channels (lymph vessels) that drain a thin watery fluid known as lymph from different areas of the body into the bloodstream. Obstruction of these vessels results in the massive swelling and gross enlargement characteristic of elephantiasis.

In areas where filariasis is endemic, the most common cause of elephantiasis is a parasitic disease known as lymphatic filariasis and, in the medical literature, the terms lymphatic filariasis and elephantiasis may be used interchangeably. Elephantiasis due to lymphatic filariasis may also be referred to as "true" elephantiasis. In most areas, the lymphatic damage associated with elephantiasis has other causes including certain sexually transmitted diseases (e.g., lymphogranuloma venereum); tuberculosis; an infectious disease called leishmaniasis; repeated streptococcal infections; leprosy; and environmental factors such as exposure to certain minerals (e.g., silica). In some cases, no cause can be identified (idiopathic).

Recently a team of researchers funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has recently revealed the genetic secrets of one of these parasites. The researchers report solving the complete genome of Brugia malayi, one of the worms that causes the often debilitating disease elephantiasis.

Resources

National Lymphedema Network
Latham Square Building
1611 Telegraph Avenue
Suite 1111
Oakland, CA 94612-2138
Tel: (510)208-3200
Fax: (510)208-3110
Tel: (800)541-3259
Email: nln@lymphnet.org
Internet: http://www.lymphnet.org

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Tel: (404)639-3534
Tel: (800)311-3435
Email: http://www.cdc.gov/netinfo.htm
Internet: http://www.cdc.gov/

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
6610 Rockledge Drive
MSC 6612
Bethesda, MD 20892-6612
Tel: (301)496-5717
Fax: (301)402-3573
TDD: (800)877-8339
Internet: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/

World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for the Americas (AMRO)
Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)
525 23rd Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
Tel: (202)974-3000
Fax: (202)974-3663
Email: postmaster@paho.org
Internet: http://www.who.ch/

Lymphatic Research Foundation
40 Garvies Point Road
Glen Cove, NY 11542
USA
Tel: (516)625-9675
Fax: (516)625-9410
Email: lrf@lymphaticresearch.org
Internet: http://www.lymphaticresearch.org

Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center
PO Box 8126
Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8126
Tel: (301)251-4925
Fax: (301)251-4911
Tel: (888)205-2311
TDD: (888)205-3223
Email: ordr@od.nih.gov
Internet: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/Default.aspx

For a Complete Report

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. ® (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be obtained for a small fee by visiting the NORD website. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational treatments (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, see http://www.rarediseases.org/search/rdblist.html

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