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Everything You Need To Know About Lymphedema

Updated: Dec 6, 2021


What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an abnormal collection of high‐protein fluid just beneath the skin.

This swelling, or edema, occurs most commonly in the arm or leg, but it also may occur in other parts of the body including the breast or trunk, head and neck, or genitals. It is usually chronic, presented as "swelling that does not go away" even after months.

While edema is a symptom, Lymphedema is a condition or disease.

Other conditions that may cause edema, but are not considered as Lymphedema are:

  • Venous insufficiency (leaky or obstructed veins)

  • Cardiac conditions like heart failure

  • Kidney failure

  • Other inflammatory conditions

  • Water retention

Primary versus Secondary Lymphedema

Lymphedema usually develops when lymph vessels are damaged or lymph nodes are removed (secondary lymphedema) but can also be present when lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired due to a hereditary condition (primary lymphedema).

Stages of Lymphedema (1 to 4)

Stages 1 and 2 are typically reversible with aims to reduce swelling with early intervention and management

Stages 3 and 4 are typically irreversible with aims to maintain and prevent other complications like infections.

When lymphedema remains untreated, it will progress.

How to Treat Lymphedema?