What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is swelling due to build-up of lymph fluid in the body. Lymph nodes act like a drain in your sink. If the drain is clogged, the fluid cannot drain. It usually happens in the arms or legs, but can occur in other parts of the body. Lymph fluid is part of the lymph system that carries fluid and cells that help fight infections throughout the body. Sometimes this swelling develops quickly, or it may develop slowly over several months.

What Causes Lymphedema?

Venous insufficiency

Cancer treatments.

  • Sometimes a cancerous tumor can get big enough to block the lymph system.
  • Surgery to remove cancer may also remove lymph nodes or some of the vessels that carry the lymph fluid. This can cause the fluid to build up in surrounding tissues.
  • Radiation treatment can damage the lymph vessels, resulting in too much lymph fluid in the tissues.

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