Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs, but occasionally in other body parts, including the face, neck, abdomen, and genital area. It occurs when the channels and ducts that transport lymph, a protein-rich fluid, are missing, impaired or damaged.
Primary lymphedema, also known as congenital lymphedema, can be present at birth or develop at the onset of puberty or adulthood.
Secondary lymphedema, also known as acquired lymphedema, often occurs following surgery or radiation, especially after the removal of lymph nodes.
If swelling and inflammation remain unchecked, the tissue thickens and hardens – reducing oxygen availability in the circulatory system, interfering with wound healing, and providing a breeding ground for infection and more severe symptoms.