Lymphedema is an accumulation of protein-rich lymph fluid in the soft tissues in an area(s) of your body due to a problem with the lymphatic system's ability to function, associated with other diagnosable medical concerns, or a combination of medical factors, resulting in swelling and other associated symptoms. Some of the signs and symptoms an individual developing Lymphedema may experience and report, include:
- Sensation of: "Tightness," "Heaviness," "Discomfort," "Throbbing", "Aching pain;"
- Weakness, decreased endurance, fatigue, and decreased strength with use of the swollen or affected extremity(s);
- Swelling that may come and go. The swelling may progressively worsen over time and not resolve on its own;
- Problems with returning to functional activities in your daily life: return to work, home and self-care activities, and regular leisure activities, may cause a noticeable increase in lymphedema;
- Stress, anxiety, frustration and decreased quality of life.
The lymphatic system includes a series of lymph nodes, organs, and vessels that run throughout the human body. Lymph fluid is regular waste products produced by normal metabolic processes of the body managed by the lymphatic system rather than the blood circulation system. This lymphatic fluid includes: protein, water, fats, and cell debris. Lymph vessels distributed throughout your body carry this fluid to your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes filter these waste products and ultimately return the fluid to your blood (vascular) system at drainage points under both of your collar bones. If your lymph nodes or vessels are damaged, removed, or non-existent, this lymph fluid may accumulate in an area of your body and result in Lymphedema.