Lymph vessels act as drainpipes in the human body, in which waste products and bacteria are drained away. If the system gets damaged the transport capacity may deteriorate which then results in an accumulation of excess fluid and proteins in the subcutaneous tissue. This condition is called lymphedema.
Symptoms vary from person to person but lymphedema can occur at almost every part of the human body (arms, legs, face, chest-adominal region aso.). Because of the swelling, patients often have a feeling of heaviness, feel tired and exhausted. Furthermore severe inflammations can occur too.
Lymphedema is separated into primary lymphedema with incompletely understood cause and secondary lymphedema were the cause is understood.
Primary lymphedema develops due to an inborn malformation of lymph vessels or lymph nodes. This kind of edema may present at birth or at an advanced age after years in which the condition of malformed lymph vessels have further deteriorated. Statistically women are affected more often, e.g. due to puberty, pregnancy or delivery.
Secondary lymphedema may develop after some kind of diseases, external injuries or therapeutic interventions. Most often it presents after treatment for malignant tumors like breast, uterus or prostate cancer. This is based on the fact that lymph nodes have been removed or treated by radiotherapy or anticancer drugs to prevent metastases. By doing so lymph vessel’s function becomes impaired or lymph flow becomes blocked and may cause lymphedema.
The onset of secondary lymphedema varies between individuals. Some develop lymphedema shortly after surgery in other cases it might take 5, 10 or more years.
As soon as you feel a swelling it is very important to quickly see a doctor, get a diagnosis and start a therapy. Early therapy may delay the onset and prevents a serious progression of lymphedema.