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Bronze statue showing elephantiasis of the scrotum, Nigeria, 1801-1900

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.

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Glossary: statue

A sculpture in the round representing human or animal figures or small figure groups; a statuette is a smaller sculpture.

Glossary: pathology

The branch of medicine concerned with disease, especially its structure and effects on the body.

Glossary: elephantiasis

Condition in which there is large swelling of the tissues due to blockage of lymph vessels. It is usually caused by parasitic worms.

Glossary: scrotum

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