What is lymphedema?

Updated: Mar 24, 2021
  • Author: Robert A Schwartz, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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Answer

Lymphedema (see the image below) is an abnormal collection of protein-rich fluid in the interstitium resulting from obstruction of lymphatic drainage. Lymphatic obstruction causes an increase in the protein content of the extravascular tissue, with subsequent retention of water and swelling of the soft tissue. The increase in the extravascular protein stimulates proliferation of fibroblasts, organization of the fluid, and the development of a nonpitting swelling of the affected extremity.

Lymphedema in a patient with hypertension, diabete Lymphedema in a patient with hypertension, diabetes, and impaired cardiac function.

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