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Lymphedema

Updated: Aug 6, 2022


Overview

Lymph nodes are the main parts of the human lymphatic system. Lymphedema is caused due to tissue swelling due to the accumulation of protein-rich fluid affecting arms or legs. In other cases, it is also seen to affect the chest wall, abdomen, genitals, and legs. Shortly any blockage in the drainage of lymph fluid causes Lymphedema. In this article, you will find a brief introduction to what Lymphedema is, its causes, and its prognosis. To find out more, continue your reading!

What are the causes of Lymphedema?

Lymphedema in an individual can take place due to several different reasons. It can be due to cancer or cancer treatment. In some cases, it is seen that a tumor gets too big to block the lymph system leading to Lymphedema. On the other hand, surgeries for cancer can also damage vessels carrying the lymph fluid resulting in an accumulation of fluid in surrounding tissues. Radiation treatments are also suspected for the same reason.

Signs and symptoms

Most common symptoms start with minor swelling in the arm, leg, or in other parts of the body that gets severe with time. Skin starts feeling tight in the affected area and gives a tingling sensation. Different body parts feel heavy, commonly arms and legs.

Prognosis

The effects on a person suffering from Lymphedema depend on the underlying disease's chronicity and state. If we talk about primary stage Lymphedema, it usually does not progress with conditions stabilizing after several years of the activity.

A patient diagnosed with chronic Lymphedema is at a 10% risk of having lymphangiosarcoma after 10 years, the deadliest condition of this disease. Common symptoms of this stage are reddish-purple discoloration or nodules that form satellite lesions. It is sometimes confused with Kaposi sarcoma or traumatic ecchymosis. A highly aggressive tumor needs radical amputation of the involved extremity and has a poor prognosis. [37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43]

The survival rate of 5 years is less than 10% in lymphangiosarcoma, with the average survival time following diagnosis being 19 months.

Other neoplasms identified in areas of chronic Lymphedema are squamous cell carcinoma, Kaposi sarcoma, [42, 45] B-cell lymphoma, [46] and malignant fibrous histiocytoma.

Other complications include recurrent bouts of lymphangitis, bacterial and fungal infections, lymphangial-adenitis, deep venous thrombosis, severe functional impairment, cosmetic embarrassment, and necessary amputation.

Reflections

Lymphedema is a condition in which that results in swelling due to the accumulation of lymph fluid. This can affect the ability to move the affected limbs and increase the risk of skin infection and sepsis. Treatment includes careful skin care, surgery to remove swollen tissues, and new drainage routes. Prognosis depends on the stage of the patient suffering from the disease. In the case of chronic conditions, the survival rate gets lower, leading to lymphangiosarcoma.

References

Schwartz, R.A. and Kapila,R. (2021, March 24). Lymphedema. E.Medicine Medscape https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1087313-overview#a8


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