Lymphedema is the condition which occurs when there is an interruption of lymphatic flow in the soft tissues of one or more extremities (arm or leg), impairing the venous and/or lymphatic vessels. When the lymphatic system remains damaged or blocked over an extended period of time, edema (swelling) occurs. This can cause fibrosis (a thickening of the tissues that causes hardening of the skin) and recurrent cellulitis or lymphangitis infections.
Chronic lymphedema is a permanent, progressive condition. There is no cure for lymphedema, only “palliative” treatment. Palliative means to treat the symptoms as they exist. Lymphedema can be managed, and patients who are educated about their lymphatic deficiencies can lead normal lives; however, lymphedema is likely to worsen and become debilitating if left untreated.