Lymphedema is a medical
condition where protein-rich fluid known as lymph collects typically in the arms
or legs resulting in pain, decreased mobility, recurrent soft tissue infections
and permanent disability.
Lymphedema appears in
two forms, a categorization based on its etiology, either primary or
Congenital lymphedema is
an in-born abnormality where lymphatic channels and/or their nodal basin in the
axilla or groin regions fail to develop normally. This congenital condition is also known as
“primary lymphedema” and commonly presents in infancy. Primary congenital lymphedema typically
affects only one limb and should not be confused with lipedema that
symmetrically affects bilateral limbs.
Congenital lymphedema that presents in teenage years is known as
lymphedema praecox and as lymphedema tarda when presenting as an adult. These disorders must be examined closely as
they may indicate the presence of a cancerous process with compression of the
lymphatic system versus a congenital disorder.
Secondary lymphedema is
a medical condition where damage occurs to the lymphatic system. The most common injury is surgical, whereby
lymph nodes are removed for the treatment for a variety of cancers. To further complicate the situation, many of
these patients undergo irradiation therapy that can worsen the
for lymphedema includes manual lymphatic massage and the use of compression
bandages and garments. This approach is
designed to minimize the accumulation of lymphatic fluid within the soft tissue
of the affected limb. Uncontrolled
collections of lymphedema fluid can be painful and can be a set up for recurrent
soft tissue infections. Profound,
chronic lymphedema, commonly referred to as elephantiasis, can result in open,
non-healing ulcers and a woody appearance of extremity skin, the effects of
which are irreversible.
USEFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE ABOUT:
Lymph Vessel System