Bronze statue, depicting male with elephantiasis of the scrotum, Yoruba, Nigerian, 19th century
The bronze figure, made by the Yoruba people of Nigeria, clearly shows elephantiasis of the scrotum. Elephantiasis is a now rare disorder of the lymphatic system, the system that carries lymph – which contains white blood cells – around the body.
Elephantiasis is a disease most often caused by the presence in the body of tiny parasitic worms, which are themselves transmitted via mosquitoes. Once in the body, they can create blockages in the lymphatic system which in turn cause swellings. Left untreated, these swellings can become enormous; the name of the disease evokes the elephant-like swelling that can occur in the limbs.