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Lymphedema is a condition where an abnormal collection of protein-rich lymph fluid affects one or many parts of the body and causes swelling. In most cases, the extremities are affected - however, the face, neck, abdomen or genitals could also be affected. This swelling occurs due to damaged or deformed lymphatic vessels or nodes.

Your lymphatic system is the body’s “plumbing system”, responsible for removing waste material from the body. It is part of the immune system which helps fight disease and infections. The lymphatic system is found throughout all body areas with blood supply and pumps toward the cardiovascular system.


Primary lymphedema is a hereditary/congenital condition when the person is born with a lymphatic dysfunction. Primary lymphedema may be present at birth, may develop at puberty, or may begin to show signs in adulthood. Primary lymphedema usually involves both legs and affects women more than men.

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Secondary lymphedema (most common) is the result of damage to or removal of a section of the lymphatic system (caused by cancer/radiation, trauma, obesity, surgery, infection). The actual swelling may not appear for months or even years. Cancer and the related treatments for cancer is the most common cause of secondary lymphedema in the United States.

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