Lymphedema is a condition marked by excess swelling of the arms or legs. This swelling is caused by the collection of lymphatic fluid in the soft tissues of these body parts. It normally develops when there is damage to the lymphatic system that impairs proper drainage of the lymph.
It is a chronic condition usually seen in people who have had cancer surgeries, chemotherapy, or other cancer treatments. These treatments often disrupt or damage parts of the lymphatic system. Certain cancer surgeries require the removal of some lymph nodes and vessels.
There are two types of lymphedema: primary and secondary . Both relate to impairment or disruption of the lymphatic system function. Primary lymphedema has rare, inherited genetic causes that prevent normal lymph development. Secondary lymphedema is more common and occurs due to acquired damage to the drainage of the lymphatic system.
Lymphedema may also be classified as benign or malignant . The condition is characterized by mild swelling and discomfort or it can be severe, causing visible skin changes.
This article discusses some causes of lymphedema.