Lymphedema of the extremities


What is Lymphedema of the Extremities?

Lymphedema of the extremities is a disorder that occurs when excess fluid and other materials are retained in bodily tissue, leading a condition known as swelling. Typically, this condition is found in the arms and legs and can cause disfigurement, physical disability, and, in severe cases, even life-threatening infections.

Causes of Lymphedema of the Extremities

The most common causes of lymphedema of the extremities are damage to the lymph nodes from infection or cancer treatments, obesity or a genetic predisposition. In particular, radiation treatments, surgery or removal of lymph nodes can block or damage the lymphatic channels, leading to fluid retention and impending swelling.

Symptoms of Lymphedema of the Extremites

The most tell-tale signs of lymphedema are swelling, heaviness, tightness and achiness of the arms or legs. The affected area may also look discolored, larger or may have a lumpy appearance. In addition, lymphedema may be accompanied by infection, impaired mobility, pain and an increased risk of developing other health complications.

Treatments for Lymphedema of the Extremities

The primary treatments for lymphedema of the extremities are self-care practices and self-management. Examples of self-care practices include elevation of the extremity, exercise, wound care, massage, and compression garments. Depending on the severity of the swelling, surgery and medication may also be recommended. It’s important to consult with a doctor to determine the best treatment for your individual case.

Potential Complications

Without proper treatment and self-care, lymphedema can significantly impair a patient’s quality of life and can lead to medical complications. Possible complications include:

  • Skin ulceration
  • Fungal infection
  • Chronic skin changes
  • Muscle and joint damage
  • Reduced mobility
  • Difficulty breathing

Prevention of Lymphedema of the Extremities

The best way to prevent lymphedema of the extremities is to receive prompt and thorough treatment of any infection, cancer or other underlying condition. In addition, regular skin care, exercise and avoiding mechanical and environmental trauma to the arms and legs can help to reduce the risk of developing lymphedema.