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What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the interstitial space. This not only can cause swelling, but can also result in changes to the skin, infection, and decreased wound healing where wounds are present.

What is the cause of Lymphedema?

There are two main classes of Lymphedema - Primary and Secondary. Primary lymphedema in some instances is congenital or often arises later in life. Secondary lymphedema arises as the result of damage to components of the lymphatic system, (i.e. radiation, surgery, trauma, or infection).


The primary clinical presentation of lymphedema is swelling, caused by the accumulation of fluid and protein in the interstitial space. As lymphedema progresses, the skin can become fibrotic and darkened. This is due to the accumulation of proteins and other elements that would normally be removed by the lymphatic system.

With lymphedema, there is an increased risk of infection because protein rich fluid accumulation creates an environment favorable to bacterial growth.