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Lymphedema - your questions answered!

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a build-up of lymph fluid (a fluid carrying infection fighting blood cells) in the fatty tissues just below the skin. The build-up of lymph fluid causes the affected area to swell.

Who does lymphedema affect?

If there are any changes in the structure of the lymph system this will put a person at risk for lymphedema. A lot of people assume that lymphedema is linked to those patients who have had breast cancer surgery and lymph node removal, but this is not necessarily true.

How do you get lymphedema?

Due to the affects on the skin from surgery, cancer, radiation and infection these factors can cause a secondary lymphedema. As well as swelling, secondary lymphedema can cause decreased circulation of lymph fluid throughout a person’s body.

There is also congenital or primary lymphedema, although this is quite rare. This type of lymphedema is not directly attributed to another medical condition. It happens as a result of genetic mutations that cause the lymphatic system to develop improperly.

What are the symptoms of lymphedema?

It can affect the arms, legs, head, neck, abdomen, etc. A feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected limb or area; difficulty fitting into normal clothing or jewellery; restricted range of motion or use of an extremity; recurring infections; and, hardening or thickening of the skin.

This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.

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