Lymphedema: Lymphedema is a collection of fluid that causes swelling (edema) in the arms and legs. Symptoms include swelling of the arms or legs, restricted motion, pain, or hardening of the skin on the arms and legs.
Causes: The lymphatic system carries lymph fluid throughout the body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste products. The wastes are filtered through the lymph nodes and flushed out of the body. Lymphedema occurs when the lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid, usually from an arm or leg. It can occur sporadically (primary) or be caused by another condition (secondary). Secondary lymphedema is far more common than primary lymphedema.
Possible complications: Secondary lymphedema can be caused by cancer or infection. It can also be a side effect from surgery or radiation therapy.
Treatment: There is no cure for lymphedema. Treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and controlling the pain and may include exercise, compression garments or massage. Severe cases may require surgery to reduce excess tissue on the limb.
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