Lymphedema

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Lymphedema (lymphoedema in British English), also known as lymphatic obstruction, is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system returns the interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct and then to the bloodstream, where it is recirculated back to the tissues.

Tissues with lymphedema are at risk of infection.

Contents

Signs and symptoms

Symptoms may include severe fatigue, a heavy swollen limb or localized fluid accumulation in other body areas, including the head or neck, discoloration of the skin overlying the lymphedema, and eventually deformity (elephantiasis).

Lymphedema should not be confused with edema arising from venous insufficiency, which is not lymphedema. However, untreated venous insufficiency can progress into a combined venous/lymphatic disorder which is treated the same way as lymphedema (see Treatment below).

Presented here is an extreme case of severe unilateral hereditary lymphedema which had been present for 25 years without treatment:

Comparison of normal and swollen limb

Size of swollen foot, toes underneath

Another view of lymphedemic foot

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