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What is lymphedema?

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The lymphatic system is a circulatory system that includes a large network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. The lymphatic system helps coordinate the immune system's function to protect the body from foreign substances.

Lymphedema is an abnormal build-up of fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs. Lymphedema happens when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged or removed.

Primary lymphedema is rare and caused by certain missing lymph vessels at birth. Or it may be caused by abnormalities in the lymphatic vessels.

Secondary lymphedema happens because of a blockage or interruption that alters the lymphatic system. Secondary lymphedema can form from an infection, malignancy, surgery, scar tissue formation, obesity, trauma, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), radiation or other cancer treatment.

From: Vascular Diseases and Pain WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES: 

American Heart Association. 

Cleveland Clinic.

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri on April 30, 2017

SOURCES: 

American Heart Association. 

Cleveland Clinic.

Reviewed by Minesh Khatri on April 30, 2017

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