Lymphedema is swelling that occurs in any body area, but typically the extremities and is categorized as either a primary (no known cause) or a secondary lymphedema. Secondary lymphedema is caused by trauma or insult specifically to the lymphatic vessel system. This commonly occurs after surgery or radiation where the lymph nodes have been directly affected.
Typically, the lymph vessel system regulates and removes excessive fluid including waste products from the body. It returns a percentage of the fluid back to the blood stream. If the lymph vessels are disrupted, then a back-up of fluid occurs, creating lymphedema.
Lymphedema can cause pain, mobility restrictions, feelings of tightness or burning in the area, infection and thickening of the skin. A significant increase in the girth of the affected area will often occur as the condition progresses.
Although there is no cure for Lymphedema, it can be well managed to allow an individual with lymphedema to live a happy and active lifestyle.