What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a long-term (chronic) disease where lymphatic fluid collects in the tissues, causing swelling. Lymphedema is caused by damaged or missing lymph vessels.

What Is Lymphedema?

The lymphatic system runs throughout your body in parallel to your blood vessels. It is part of your immune system and helps to fight against infections at a local level. It drains and purifies excess fluids and balances the amount of fluids circulating in your body. It can be likened to a waste disposal system, taking excess tissue fluid, bacteria, proteins, and waste products into the bloodstream.

When the lymphatic system does not work properly, it is unable to drain the lymphatic fluid sufficiently. This leads to a collection of fluid in the affected area and causes swelling. Learn more about how the lymphatic system works and about the types of lymphedema.

What are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

The most common signs and symptoms of lymphedema are:

  • Swelling in your arms and legs, or other parts of the body
  • A feeling of heaviness or tightness
  • Aching or discomfort
  • Skin changes
  • Less mobility and range of motion
  • Clothing and jewelry (especially rings and bracelets) may feel much tighter than usual

Lymphedema is a disease that can’t be cured, but there are ways to improve or relieve your symptoms. It is important that you understand the disease, and recognize the signs and symptoms. If left untreated, the symptoms of lymphedema can impair over time. Therefore, early treatment is essential to manage your lymphedema effectively.

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