Lymphedema is chronic swelling caused by the accumulation of fluid in the tissues. This occurs when lymph fluid is not circulating well throughout the body. Lymph vessels run alongside blood vessels, moving fluids around to manage volume and fight disease. Lymph nodes filter foreign materials to help fight infection.
Lymphedema usually develops slowly, but primary risk factors for lymphedema may include:
This side effect cannot be prevented, but it can be treated if addressed early on. The treatment is called Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which consists of a variety of treatments tailored to what is best for each patient.
Body begins having trouble moving lymphatic fluid, may start feeling some discomfort. Still treatable and reversible. Also called latency stage.
No or very little swelling, swelling may come and go. Lymphedema may still be reversible.
More swelling and fluid build-up, skin may feel tight and shiny. Tissue may form pits when pressed. Fluid can be moved out of the tissue, but not without outside help.
Severe and prolonged swelling. Skin may feel hard or leathery, with a darker color and/or small bumps. Fluid is difficult to remove, but may be treated with intense outside help. Also called lymphostatic elephantitis.