Swollen Arms and Legs

Lymphedema mainly causes swelling in the affected arm or leg, including the fingers or toes. Lymphedema in both arms or legs (bilateral lymphedema) is relatively rare. Other areas of the body, such as the head, neck, or genitals, can also be affected by lymphedema.

Swollen Arms and Legs

An early sign of lymphedema is that clothes and jewelry, such as rings or bracelets, become tighter than usual. The affected area may also feel heavy, tight, or stiff.

The swelling often progresses during the day and improves when you elevate the limb. Elevation helps to transport the lymphatic fluid back to the center of your body.

Lymph vessels and capillaries collect fluid from the spaces between the cells to filter it. Lymph vessels have one-way valves that act like gates and direct the lymph fluid in one direction. Damages to this system, under-developed or missing lymph vessels, impair the drainage of the lymph fluid. The lymph fluid accumulates and results in swelling. For a better understanding of the lymphatic system, click here.

Different diseases cause swollen arms and legs in lymphedema. Learn more about the different causes and types of lymphedema.

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