Lymphedema is a condition characterized by swelling caused by blockage in the lymphatic system. Let’s found out more about lymphedema and lymphedema symptoms. What Causes Lymphedema?
Lymphedema results out of lymphatic obstruction which prevents draining of fluid from tissues due to blocked lymph vessels. Obstruction of the lymphatic system causes the fluid to accumulate resulting in swelling or lymphedema.
Lymphedema can have different causes including infections with parasites such as filariasis, blockage of lymph nodes due to a tumor and postoperative complication. Lymphedema can also occur due to surgical removal of lymph nodes which is common in case of breast cancer. Radiation therapy for cancer can cause scarring of lymph nodes resulting in lymphedema.
In rare cases, lymphedema can be primary. Primary lymphedema refers to inherited conditions featured by abnormality of lymph nodes. Trauma and injury to the lymphatic vessels can also lead to restricted flow of lymph fluid and cause lymphedema.
Swelling and Edema
Swelling is the main symptom of lymphedema. It is the most noticeable symptoms along with severe edema. This swelling may affect a particular part of the body or may appear generalized. Most often, lymphedema causes swelling of the arm or leg. This is also the symptom of filiariasis, also called elephantiasis, in which the limbs may swell to several times its normal size and swellings may be separated by uneven folds.
Edema can be non-pitting, meaning it does not preserve its displacement when pressed with a fingertip or pitting edema that retains a mark after it is pressed. Persistent swelling that remains untreated can progress to an extremely large and bulky swollen mass of tissue which has poor prognosis.
Changes in the Skin
Lymphedema is also accompanied with skin changes of the affected area of the body. The skin tends to thicken and become discolored. Hyperpigmentation of the skin surface is common in lymphedema and it usually occurs in patches. Also, the skin may become scaly and cracked. This increases the risk of inflammatory skin diseases and skin infections caused by fungus or bacteria. Furthermore, lymphedema causes symptoms of tender and sore skin on the affected areas as well as stretching of the skin and extreme skin tightness due to continuous swelling.
Other SymptomsA person affected by lymphedema usually experiences fatigue and general weakness. Constant dull pain in the limbs can be present too. Loss of mobility and flexibility in legs and arms can also occur resulting in restricted range of motion and difficulty in walking. Additionally, lymphedema can cause fever, body pain, redness and irritability.