Elephantiasis: The most severe form of lymphoedema
Elephantiasis – the most severe form of lymphoedema – is a chronic condition. It is caused by an obstruction in the lymphatic vessel system and the resulting congestion of lymph fluid. Consistent therapy can keep the disease under control and reduce symptoms.
In elephantiasis, the affected body parts – usually arms or legs – become extremely large. The skin is sometimes severely hardened and the patient’s mobility is severely restricted.
Stage 3 lymphoedema is also known as “elephantiasis”.
Elephantiasis should not be confused with obesity.
Causes of Elephantiasis: congenital or acquired?
Elephantiasis has nothing to do with being overweight – it is caused by lymph congestion. If a disease of the lymphatic vessel system occurs, the removal of the lymph fluid is no longer sufficiently guaranteed. The lymph vessel system disorder can be congenital (primary lymphoedema) or acquired (secondary lymphoedema).
More about the causes of lymphoedema.
Symptoms and signs: how to recognise elephantiasis
If lymphoedema is not treated at all or insufficiently treated, the lymphoedema causes massive swelling of the affected body regions, usually the arms or legs, over time. Elephantiasis is with a thickening of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. Blood proteins that remain in the tissue cause massive tissue proliferation. These can harden and cornification of the skin can occur. Vesicles filled with lymph fluid often form on the skin surface. Mobility is severely restricted due to the volume and low elasticity of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. Learn more about the initial stage of the disease and its course.
How lymph patients can prevent elephantiasis
With lymphoedema, consistent therapy is important right from the start. The individual therapy components, their frequency and intensity are agreed upon in consultation with the doctor and therapist.
More information on preventing lymphoedema.
Elephantiasis: treatment options
Therapy remains the same even in the most severe stage of lymphoedema: the proven method of treatment for elephantiasis is complex decongestive therapy (CDT). This consists among other things of manual lymph drainage, compression therapy and skin care. In addition, surgery can now be used to improve lymph drainage.
More information about therapy and nutrition for lymphoedema.
Which doctors treat elephantiasis?
There are also specialist clinics that treat elephantiasis patients. Cost reimbursement must be clarified in advance. In the case of people with statutory health insurance, this is done either through the health insurance company or the pension insurance institution.
medi products for elephantiasis
Find out more information about medical compression stockings for elephantiasis therapy here.
Learn how lymphoedema develops
Maria Bordonado: story of a patient with elephantiasis
The ideal compression garment for treating oedema
Health personnel will make the diagnosis and can prescribe compression stockings, e.g. from medi if necessary.
Your medical retailer will fit them individually for you.