WHAT IS LYMPHEDEMA
Lymphedema is a disorder of human lymphatic circulation, marked by the accumulation of lymph fluid, often in the form of swelling in the arms or legs that occurs when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are blocked or removed. Many cancer survivors who have undergone lymph node dissection and/or radiation therapy in the axillary, groin or neck region is at risk to develop lymphedema. Women are particularly at risk of developing lymphedema in their arms following surgery or radiation therapy for breast cancer, or in their legs following treatment for cervical, uterine, colon, bladder or kidney cancer. Men are particularly at risk of developing lymphedema in their legs following surgery for prostate or testicular cancer. Secondary lymphedema may also be caused by injury, trauma or infection. Other causes of Secondary lymphedema include tuberculosis and iatrogenic injury; subcutaneous injections of drugs (such as pentazocine) may also inure the lymphatics and induce this disorder.
In a few cases, Primary lymphedema (inborn) can be present at birth (congenital), or can occur during adolescences (Milroy's), or later in life after age 35 (tarda) due to a congenital malformations of the lymphatic systems.
If this condition is left untreated, chronic intractable lymphedema progresses to a fibrous, brawny texture and will have an impact on the quality of life of patients.
WHAT IS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM
The lymphatic system removes extra protein and water from body tissues and returns them to the blood system. A damaged lymphatic system may result in a disruption of these pathways resulting in symptoms that require specialized treatment.