Any condition or procedure that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels can cause lymphedema. Causes include:
• Surgery can cause lymphedema to develop if your lymph nodes and lymph vessels are removed or severed. For instance, surgery for breast cancer may include the removal of one or more lymph nodes in your armpit to look for evidence that cancer has spread. If your remaining lymph nodes and lymph vessels can’t compensate for those that have been removed, lymphedema may result in your arm.
• Radiation treatment for cancer can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels, restricting flow of the lymph.
• Cancer cells can cause lymphedema if they block lymphatic vessels. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could become large enough to obstruct the flow of the lymph fluid.
• Infection can infiltrate your lymph vessels and lymph nodes, restricting the flow of lymph fluid and causing lymphedema. Parasites also can block lymph vessels. Infection-related lymphedema is most common in tropical and subtropical regions of the globe and is more likely to occur in undeveloped countries.
• Injury that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels also can cause lymphedema.
What Are Symptoms Of Lymphedema?
Symptoms may include a heavy swollen limb or localized fluid accumulation in other body areas, restricted range of motion in an arm or leg, including the head or neck, discoloration of the skin overlying the lymphedema, recurring infections in your affected limb, hardening and thickening of the skin where the lymphedema is located also known as fibrosis. Swelling ranges from mild, hardly noticeable changes in the size of your limb to extreme swelling with abnormal skin folds that that can make it impossible to use the affected arm or leg.