Lymphoedema is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues. It can affect any part of the body, but usually develops in the arms or legs.
Other symptoms of lymphoedema can include an aching, heavy feeling in affected body parts and difficulty moving them.
Lymphoedema can get worse if it's not treated, so you should speak to a doctor if you think you may have the condition.
Lymphoedema is caused by a problem with the lymphatic system. This is a network of vessels and glands distributed throughout the body. Its major functions are helping to fight infection and drain excess fluid from tissues.
Abnormal development of the lymphatic system, damage to it, and/or an increase in fluid in the body tissues can all lead to lymphoedema.
There are two main types of lymphoedema:
Read more about the causes of lymphoedema.
A recent study has suggested that over 200,000 people in the UK may be living with lymphoedema.
Secondary lymphoedema has been shown to affect approximately one in five women after breast cancer treatment.
Primary lymphoedema is less common than secondary lymphoedema, and is estimated to affect around one in every 6,000 people.
There is no cure for lymphoedema, but it is usually possible to control the main symptoms using techniques to minimise fluid build-up and stimulate the flow of fluid through the lymphatic system.
These include wearing compression garments, taking good care of your skin, moving and exercising regularly, having a healthy diet and lifestyle, and using specialised massage techniques.
The build-up of fluid in the tissues of people with lymphoedema means they are more vulnerable to infection.
In particular, a bacterial infection of the skin called cellulitis is commonly reported in people with the condition.
Read more about the complications of lymphoedema.
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