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What is elephantiasis (lymphedema)?

What is elephantiasis (lymphedema)?Elephantiasis (lymphedema), which manifests itself by swelling of the arms and legs, occurs due to blockages that occur in the lymph nodes that are part of the immune system.

In order for the fluid filling the intercellular spaces to remain balanced in quantity, it must be constantly Decanted and mixed into the bloodstream. This fluid, called lymph fluid, is controlled by the lymphatic system. Decays in the balance of the amount of intercellular fluid may occur due to damage to the lymph nodes, ducts or nodes and congenital anomalies. Blockages formed in the lymph nodes negatively affect the evacuation of lymph fluid, causing fluid accumulation in the arms and legs, and therefore swelling. This condition is called elephantiasis. Lymphedema, which occurs as a result of improper functioning of the lymphatic system, is a chronic long-term condition. The disease may worsen if it is not diagnosed and treated within a short period of time after the appearance of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of elephantiasis (lymphedema)?
Swelling, the most obvious symptom of lymphedema, usually affects the arms and legs, although it can occur in many areas of the body. For this reason, the fact that the clothes, shoes, rings and wristwatches that are always used are tight is the most common problem in lymphedema patients. The resulting swelling may be temporary in the initial stages of the disease, its effect may increase and decrease during the day. But if the treatment is delayed, the symptoms may also worsen, and the swelling that occurs may become more permanent and uncomfortable. The most basic symptoms of lymphedema can be listed as follows:
* Swelling of some or all of the arms and legs, including the fingers and between the fingers Decubitus
* Feeling of pain and discomfort
* Feeling of heaviness and tightness in the body
* Restriction of mobility
* Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
* Repeated infections
* Formation of folds on the skin
* Wart-like formations
* Leakage of fluid from the skin
Swellings formed due to lymphedema can reach serious dimensions that can restrict the entire mobility of the limbs from changes that do not affect the person too much. The severity of symptoms varies from patient to patient.

What causes elephantiasis?
Elephantiasis basically occurs as a result of the lymph fluid spreading under the skin for various reasons instead of entering the bloodstream. The most common cause of occurrence is that the lymph nodes have been removed as part of cancer treatment. As a result of the fact that tumors formed by malignant cells clog lymphatic vessels in cancer patients, a picture of lymphedema can also occur by blocking the flow of lymph fluid. Apart from this, the factors that play a role in the formation of elephant disease are as follows:
* Radiation (radiation) treatments seen after cancer
* Damage to the lymphatic pathways as a result of some operations
* Fungal diseases
* Traumas
* Infections
* Parasites transmitted through mosquitoes
* Hereditary diseases and anomalies related to the structure of the lymphatic system

What are the types of elephant disease?
Elephantiasis is divided into primary lymphedema and secondary lymphedema according to the cause of its occurrence:
* Primary lymphedema: It is a rare and hereditary condition that develops due to structural disorders of the lymph vessels located in the body. Milroy's disease, Meige's disease and lymphedema that occurs after the age of 35 fall into this group.
* Secondary Lymphedema: This is a type of lymphedema that develops due to trauma, surgery, or disease that leads to disruptions in the structure of lymph nodes or vessels. Disorders related to the lymphatic system in these patients are not congenital, but have developed subsequently.

How is elephantiasis diagnosed?
It is beneficial for all individuals who have swelling problems in their arms or legs to apply to family physicians who provide primary health care. As a result of the examination and follow-up to be performed here, patients with suspected elephantiasis are referred to hospitals, which are the upper step, for detailed examination and expert control. In most cases, lymphedema disease can be diagnosed by a specialist doctor as a result of taking a detailed history of the patient and conducting a physical examination. If deemed necessary, it can be evaluated by taking measurements from the affected limb to determine the swelling, or blood tests can also be performed. With the application of bio-impedance, another technique that can be used in the diagnosis of lymphedema, small metal devices called electrodes are placed in certain areas of the body. These small electrodes measure changes in current by delivering light electrical currents to the body that a person may not notice and give information about the amount of fluid accumulated in the tissues. Some medical imaging techniques can also be used to diagnose elephant disease. With the method called lymphosyntigram, a radioactive marked dye is injected into the body with the help of a special scanner. In this way, by examining the movements of the dye in the lymphatic system, it becomes possible to have information about the areas where there is lymph congestion and the amount of fluid. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) and ultrasonography are other imaging techniques that can be used as guidance in the diagnosis of the disease. All these examinations to be carried out are very important in terms of clearly imaging the affected area and determining the appropriate treatment. In individuals diagnosed with elephantiasis, the patient's age, the level of the disease and the Decays caused by it in daily life are evaluated together and the process is planned for the treatment of lymphedema.

How is the treatment of elephant disease?
There is no clear cure for lymphedema disease to date. However, it is possible to prevent serious problems that can be caused by the disease by applying treatment for purposes such as minimizing fluid accumulation between cells, facilitating and promoting the flow of fluid in the lymphatic system. The treatment applied for this purpose is called decongestive lymphatic treatment. This application, which we can define as the treatment of elephantiasis, is not an application for the elimination of lymphedema, but allows the complications caused by lymphedema to be controlled. With the help of compression garments, the fluid is removed from the affected limb and the swelling is reduced.
During the treatment process, necessary skin care and cleaning should be done with the support of a dermatologist. In this way, people with infections that may increase the severity of lymphedema are eliminated, and preventive treatment is applied against infections in other individuals. With regular exercise and continuous exercise of the muscles in the affected limbs, lymph drainage is performed better. It is recommended that an exercise plan suitable for the age of the patient should be determined and adapted to it. With the help of special massage techniques, also called manual lymphatic drainage, the fluid flow in the lymphatic system can be stimulated to relieve swelling. All these techniques will facilitate the daily life of the patient and ensure a more comfortable life. Since the unaesthetic appearance caused by the disease brings along psychological problems in many patients, patients should be referred to psychiatrists and psychologists when deemed necessary by the physician.

If you are experiencing problems similar to the symptoms of lymphedema, you should immediately apply to a health institution and undergo a detailed examination. If the disease is diagnosed, you can leave your disease behind before more serious problems occur by fulfilling the requirements in the treatment process that your doctor will recommend.Ü


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