Lymphedema: the Growing Awareness
Lymphedema is the swelling of a body part, most often an arm or a leg, caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid.
Although lymphedema has been observed for centuries, until recently little was understood about the disease. Only in the past 10 to 15 years have clinicians begun to seriously focus on its causes and treatment.
The lymphatic system, which is a part of the larger circulatory system, develops before birth. Fluids and protein, lipids, fat-soluble vitamins, and immune cells circulate within lymphatic vessels and nodes. If the normal flow of lymph fluid is blocked, the skin and tissues become edematous (swollen) and are at a much greater risk for infection.
Primary lymphedema can be congenital (present at birth) or develop after age 35. Some cases are familial (inherited) but primary lymphedema often occurs due to idiopathic (unknown) causes.
Primary lymphedema is more common in females and occurs more often in the lower extremities.
Types of Primary Lymphedema:
Types of Secondary Lymphedema: