Encyclopedia > Lymphedema

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Lymphedema is a condition of localized fluid retention caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The lymphatic system collects and filters the interstitial fluid of the body.

Lymphedema is relatively little recognized as being a serious health problem. Doctors and medical staff who practice in fields where this disease is uncommon may fail to correctly diagnose the condition.

Lymphedema is caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels. It is most frequently seen after surgery or radiation therapy, which can cause unintended damage to the lymphatic drainage system. It is especially common after surgery and radiation therapy are used in combination to treat breast cancer. Lymphedema can also be associated with accidents or any other sort of disease or problem that can inhibit the lymph from proper function.

Symptoms include severe fatigue, a heavy swollen limb or localized fluid accumulation in other body areas, deformity, discoloration of the skin overlying the lymphedema, and many other symptoms. Each case is different. The condition also causes psychological distress. The normal daily living lifestyle can become severely limited.

Cancer patients sometimes find this condition develops after their therapy has concluded. Various management options are available.

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