What is lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is the swelling of a part of the body due to a build-up of fluid in the skin. It usually affects the legs or arms, but can affect any part of the body.

A recent study suggested 100,000 people in the UK may be affected by this condition. Whilst it is not a painful condition, it can be extremely uncomfortable and can affect mobility and movement.

What causes lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema occurs when there is a problem with the lymphatic system. The lymphatics form part of your immune system and are responsible for cleansing your tissues and maintaining a balance of fluids in your body. If the lymphatic system is not working correctly, the fluid in the tissues builds.

Types of lymphoedema

Lymphoedema can be describes as primary or secondary.

Primary lymphoedema is usually present from birth and arises due to the under-development or failure of the lymphatic system. It may develop without any obvious cause at different stages in life, however, particularly in adolescence and during menopause.

Secondary lymphoedema is the result of some problem outside of the lymphatic system that prevents it working properly.  This can be due to surgery, radiotherapy, injury or infection, reduced mobility/paralysis, problems with veins and cancer.