Elephantiasis

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

Skip to the navigation

Important
It is possible that the main title of the report Elephantiasis is not the name you expected.

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.

Supporting Organizations

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

1600 Clifton Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30333
Tel: (404)639-3534
Tel: (800)232-4636
Email: cdcinfo@cdc.gov
Website: http://www.cdc.gov/

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
Website: http://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/GARD/

Lymphatic Education & Research Network

261 Madison Avenue
9th Floor
New York, NY 10016
USA
Tel: 516-625-9675
Fax: 516-625-9410
Email: LERN@LymphaticNetwork.org
Website: http://www.lymphaticnetwork.org

NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

NIAID Office of Communications and Government Relations
5601 Fishers Lane, MSC 9806
Bethesda, MD 20892-9806
Tel: (301)496-5717
Fax: (301)402-3573
Tel: (866)284-4107
Email: ocpostoffice@niaid.nih.gov
Website: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/

National Lymphedema Network, Inc.

2288 Fulton Street
Suite 307
Berkeley, CA 94704
Tel: 510-809-1660
Fax: 510-809-1699
Tel: 800-541-3259
Email: nln@lymphnet.org
Website: http://www.lymphnet.org

World Health Organization (WHO)

Avenue Appia 20
Geneva 27, 1211
Switzerland
Tel: 41227912111
Fax: 41227913111
Website: http://www.who.int/en/

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD). For a full-text version of this report, go to www.rarediseases.org and click on Rare Disease Database under "Rare Disease Information".

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report.

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

Last Updated:  4/8/2009
Copyright  2009 National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.