Lymphedema Signs & Symptoms

Lymphedema, lymphostasis, or “elephantiasis”, based on a violation of the outflow of fluid (lymph) from tissues, clinically manifested by edema, is a chronic disease. The swelling of the limb is due to either hypoplasia of the lymphatic vessels (primary lymphedema) or obstruction or rupture of the vessels (secondary lymphedema).

Mostly it has a one-sided nature of the lesion, less often both arms or both legs can be involved in the process. Some patients may have edema of the genitals, chest, and head. Lymphostasis is often the result of surgical removal of lymph nodes in the armpit/groin area, or damage after radiation/chemotherapy. That is, normal drainage of lymph is difficult. Also, the disease can be caused by the growth of a tumor, which directly presses on the lymphatic vessels.

Lymphedema can occur in all places where lymph is formed, and thus its drainage may be disrupted. However, the most common locality is the limbs.


Swelling of either part or all of the leg or arm is often the most pronounced symptom. The severity of the edema may vary. Sometimes the swelling is pronounced. But, often, it all starts with fingers and toes, hands, feet. Some patients note the inability to wear jewelry, watches, certain styles of clothing or shoes, as they become cramped by the end of the day. Symptoms are listed below;

  • Swelling of either or all of the limbs
  • Sometimes swelling of the neck and head.
  • Feeling of heaviness in the limbs.
  • Feeling of “tightness” in the arms and legs.
  • Limited range of motion in the affected limb (part of the mobility is lost).
  • Feeling of discomfort in the affected limb.
  • Sometimes pain in the affected limb.
  • Tingling sensation in the affected limb.
  • Recurrent skin infections in the affected limb.
  • Trophic changes in the skin (it becomes hard, there may be blisters with lymphatic contents, growths).