What is lymphedema? Causes & symptom?


Lymphedema: tissue swelling due to excessive build up of lymph fluid in the body, caused by dysfunction of lymphatic system. Lymph nodes act like a drain in your sink. If the drain is clogged, fluid cannot drain. It usually happens in the arms or leg, but can also occur in the chest, neck, abdomen, etc. Severe lymphedema affect the movement of your limbs, increase risk of skin infection and sepsis, leads to skin changes and breakdown such as fibrosis (hardening and thickening of the skin). 


  • 1) Primary lymphedema: Inherited condition that affect how your lymphatic system develop
  • 2) Secondary lymphedema: Lymphatic system is damaged from surgery, trauma or radiation therapy. 



  • - Cancer surgery: cancer surgery includes removing lymph nodes under arms or groins which damage the lymphatic system. Most commonly seen in breast cancer patient.
  • - Radiation therapy: can cause scarring and damage to lymphatic system.
  • - Heart condition: most commonly happen in congestive heart failure as unable to pump and empty the lymph back into heart and remove excess fluid out of body. Swelling will be seen on the legs.
  • - Kidney disease: Kidney works to remove extra fluid and waste products. Kidney disease causes difficulty in removing fluid resulting in lymphedema. 
  • - Trauma: Sometimes can damage lymphatic vessels under skin


Symptom of Lymphedema

  • - Swelling on the extermity (arms or legs) or other part of body which might come and go or get bigger overtime
  • - Skin in that area feels tight, tingling sensation
  • - Feels heavy on arms or leg
  • - Jewelry and clothing becomes more tight 
  • - Hardening or thickening of skin 
  • - Pitting of the skin 

Treatment of lymphedema include manual lymphatic drainage, compression bandage, skin care, exercise, etc.