1902 Encyclopedia > Elephantiasis


Elephantiasis (synonyms, Elephantiasis Arabum, Barbados Leg, Boucnemia), a term applied to a disease which is characterized by a peculiar over-growth of the skin and subjacent textures. This condition appears to arise from repeated attacks of inflammation of the skin and con current obstruction of the veins and lymphatic vessels of the part. It may attack any portion of the body, but most commonly occurs in one of the legs, which becomes so enlarged and disfigured by the great thickening of its textures as to resemble the form of the limb of an elephant, whence the name of the disease is derived. The thickening is due to excessive increase in the connective tissue, which results from the inflammatory process, and which by pressure on the muscles of the limb causes them to undergo atrophy or degeneration. Hence the limb becomes useless. This disease is most frequently seen in tropical climates. When affecting the scrotum it frequently produces a tumor of enormous dimensions. There is in general little pain attending elephantiasis, which is essentially a chronic disease. The health, however, ultimately suffers, and serious constitutional disturbance is apt to arise. In the earlier stages of this disease great relief or even a cure may be effected by the persistent employment of wet bandages applied tightly to the limb from the toes upward, as recommended by Herbra. Ligature of the main artery of the affected limb has also been employed successfully, while amputation, which was formerly the only remedy employed may occasionally be called for. In the case of tumors such as those already referred to the only remedy is excision. This disease is totally different from the so called Elephantiasis Graecorum, or true leprosy, which will be afterwards described.

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