Lymphedema is a condition where the lymphatic system has been compromised. It is an abnormal swelling condition that may affect one or more body regions, wherein swelling because the lymphatic system does not develop properly, is damaged, or is overloaded. The fluid that builds up in the tissues and causes swelling is described as being ‘protein-rich’ because it contains more protein than normal – bacteria thrive in this stagnant, protein-rich fluid.
Lymphedema is chronic and degenerative condition that currently cannot be cured; however, the condition can be managed through prompt and on-going treatment that helps reduce swelling in the affected area, minimize the risks of infection, and slow adverse tissue changes.
Primary Lymphedema is caused by an abnormal development of lymphatic vessels and nodes. Swelling can occur at any age but is most commonly observed during puberty, and less commonly seen at birth or after age 35.
Primary Lymphedema affects both sexes and may affect upper and lower extremities. It is however, most frequently seen in females with swelling in one or both legs that begins at the foot and progresses up toward the trunk.
Secondary Lymphedema is an acquired disorder caused by obstruction, interruption or functional impairment of the lymphatic system. Circulatory problems and cancer treatment are the most common causes of secondary Lymphedema in North America. Other causes include injuries, burns, surgical scars, and tropical parasites.