Lymphedema is the swelling of a limb due to failure of the lymphatic system.
The most common areas of the body that are affected are in an arm or a leg. There are two types of lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is usually determined from birth and is often hereditary. Secondary lymphedema is usually caused by damage to venous valves or the removal of the lymph nodes. Sometimes secondary lymphedema is caused by an accident or severe infection.
Chronic Venous Insufficiency is a peripheral vascular disease. A prolonged condition in which one or more veins do not adequately return blood from the legs (lower extremities) back to the heart due to damaged venous valves. Symptoms include discoloration of the skin and ankles, swelling of the legs, and feelings of dull aching pain, heaviness, or cramping in the extremities. Non-healing wounds over pressure points, such as heels or ankles may also occur.
Lymphedema is the chronic swelling or feeling of tightness in the arm or hand due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the soft tissue of the arm. Chronic lymphedema may result in minor swelling and discomfort. Occasionally it leads to a grave disability and disfigurement. Lymphedema may be precipitated, or made worse, by a skin infection. Skin infections can be difficult to treat in someone with pre-existing lymphedema.
Grade 1 –
When the skin is pressed the pressure will leave a pit that takes some time to fill back in. This is referred to as pitting edema. Sometimes elevating the limb for a few hours can reduce the swelling. There is little or no fibrosis (hardening) at this state, so it is usually reversible.
Grade 2 –
When the swollen area is pressed, it does not pit, and the swelling is not reduced very much by elevation. If left untreated, the tissue in the limb gradually hardens and becomes fibrotic.
Grade 3 –
The lymphedema is often called elephantiasis. It occurs almost exclusively in the legs after progressive lymphedema. At this stage, are likely to be gross changes to the skin and it may protrude and bulge. There may be some leakage of fluid through the tissue in the affected area, especially if there is a cut or sore. While lymphedema will respond to treatment at this state, it is rarely reversible.