Lymphedema is the abnormal accumulation of fluid in an area of the body. It is typically in the arms or legs but can also occur in the abdomen and genitals. The lymphatic system picks up extracellular/interstitial fluid (becoming lymphatic fluid) and drains it back into the blood circulation where it can be eventually eliminated. When this system cannot drain properly, fluid builds up in the tissues causing swelling.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF LYMPHEDEMA?
Primary Lymphedema is when swelling is caused by a malformation in the structure of the lymphatic system. Swelling may present at birth or it may occur later in life when the lymphatic system can no longer manage the demands placed on it.
Secondary Lymphedema occurs due to an injury to the lymphatic vessels leading to decreased efficiency and effectiveness of the lymphatic system. Often this happens due to cancer or cancer treatments such as lymph node removal, radiation, and chemotherapy. It may also occur after trauma. Secondary lymphedema may present quickly after an injury to the system or many years later.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Symptoms IN LEGS may include:
Chronic swelling in ankles/feet
Needing to change shoe size &/or style of shoes to fit swollen feet
Sock tops “dig into” legs
Dry, flaky, scaly skin
Dark brown “staining” in the lower legs
Venous stasis ulcers
History of DVT
Symptoms IN ARMS may include:
Pain/discomfort at rest or with movement
Clothing/jewelry fits tighter on affected arm