Whenever lymphatic load exceeds the lymph transport capacity, lymphedema develops. This can be sudden in some and very gradual in others. The swelling usually begins after some traumatic event, an infection, or increased physical activity. There is primary lymphedema and secondary lymphedema. The difference is that primary lymphedema has no known cause but secondary lymphedema has a known cause.
The lymph in your body is a colorless watery substance containing lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to help your body fight infection and disease. The lymph travels along lymph vessels and is filtered through lymph nodes before going into the bloodstream. When the lymph node traps bacteria or cancer they may swell and be painful and tender to touch.
Primary lymphedema affects females more commonly than males and it usually affects the lower extremities.
Secondary lymphedema can result from various cancers, following surgery, following radiation, or a parasite infection.
The cause of lymphedema is from a blockage of the lymph channel from either an obstruction or damage to the lymph vessel. It is not possible to replace lymph nodes or damaged vessels so once lymphedema has developed it cannot be cured permanently.
Diagnosis is by physical examination from your podiatrist or other physician.
Treatment for lymphedema fits into five types: skin care, compression, positioning and movement of the limb, exercise, and massage. Treatment is done every day for the best result and controlling the lymphedema.