Rehabilitation services: LymphedemaSkip section navigation
What can lead to lymphedema?
The following can begin the process of lymphedema:
Lymphedema means swelling of the lymph passages. Lymphatic obstruction is a blockage of the lymph nodes -- vessels that drain fluid from tissues throughout the body and allow immune cells to travel where they are needed.
The lymphatic system filters fluid from around cells. It is an important part of the immune system.
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the swelling of a body part (usually arms or legs). This can occur after radiation or removal of lymph nodes.
Your lymphatic vessels drain extra fluid, which goes through your lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes filter the fluid and help protect you from infection.
When lymph nodes are removed, your lymphatic system is damaged. This protein-rich fluid can build up in your tissues and cause swelling.
Lymphedema can develop right away after surgery or many years later.
Symptoms of lymphedema
Lymphedema symptoms include:
Source: Allina Health Patient Education, The Lymphedema Treatment Program at Sister Kenny® Rehabilitation Institute, pt-ahc-21175 (6/09); Allina Health Patient Education, How To Manage Lymphedema, pt-ahc-14216 (4/07)
Reviewed by: Allina Health Patient Education experts, including Nancy Hutchison, MD, CLT-LANA, medical director, Cancer Rehabilitation and Lymphedema, Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute and Virginia Piper Cancer Institute
First Published: 06/01/2009
Last Reviewed: 06/01/2009