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Lymphedema, or lymphatic obstruction, is a chronic (long-term) condition in which excess fluid (lymph) collects in tissues causes edema (swelling). Lymphedema can be very debilitating. In short, lymphedema is edema due to a blockage of the lymphatic system because lymphatic fluid cannot flow freely. The lymphatic system is an important part of our immune and circulatory systems.
Lymphedema commonly affects one of the arms or legs. In some cases, both arms or both legs may be affected. Some patients may experience swelling in the head, genitals or chest. It is often a consequence of surgically removing the lymph nodes in the armpit (axilla) or groin, or their damage caused by radiotherapy. The normal drainage of lymphatic fluid is faulty. Lymphedema can also be caused by a tumor which presses on lymphatic vessels.
Lymphedema is incurable. However, with diligent care it can be controlled.