Causes of Lymphedema
A good lymphatic system is essential to a healthy body. The system circulates the lymph fluid-rich in proteins- all through the body, collecting waste products, viruses and bacteria. The lymphatic system carries these harmful materials through lymph vessels, leading to the lymph nodes. Lymphocytes then filter out the waste, which are then flushed out from the body.
Lymphedema happens when the lymph vessels cannot adequately drain the lymph fluid, generally from a leg or an arm. It can be primary or secondary. Primary means it occurs on its own or caused by another condition or disease. The first instance is primary lymphedema and the second instance is secondary lymphedema. The latter is far more common than the former.
Reasons for secondary lymphedema
- This is any procedure or condition which damages the lymph vessels or lymph nodes. Injury or removal of lymph vessels and lymph nodes could result in lymphedema.
- Radiation treatment for cancer could result in the inflammation and scarring of lymph vessels or lymph nodes
- If lymphatic vessels are blocked by cancer cells, there could be lymphedema.
- Infection of lymph nodes or the existence of parasites could limit lymph fluid flow. Infection related lymphedema are very common in sub-tropical and tropical regions.
Reasons for primary lymphedema
- This is a rare and inherited condition due to problems linked with lymph vessels development in the body. Congenital lymphedema or Milroy's disease starts in infancy and then cause abnormal formation of lymph nodes.
- The lymphedema praecox or Meige's disease frequently causes lymphedema when an individual reaches puberty. It is also seen when a woman is pregnant. This could also happen much later, when the person concerned is 35 years of age.
- Lymphedema tarda or late-onset lymphedema occurs rarely. If it happens, it does so after the women reaches 35 years of age.
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