Lymphedema is a swelling caused by an increased accumulation of tissue water (lymph) and is located under the skin. As soon as more fluid flows into the tissue than the lymphatic channels can remove, the lymph accumulates and the tissue swells.
Lymphedema affects either the extremities (e.g. arms or legs) or the whole body, which is called generalized lymphedema. These edemas can be distinguished by their protein content, which means that they can contain more or less protein. The swelling that develops can result in an undersupply of the affected tissue. Congested fluid then forces itself between cells (e.g. skin) and their supplying blood vessels, which makes it difficult for nutrients to reach them and can thus lead to damage or death. To minimize the damage, lymphedema should be treated as soon as possible.
Furthermore, a distinction can be made between primary (hereditary) and secondary (acquired) lymphedema, which is about twice as common as hereditary lymphedema. Congenital lymphedema mostly affects women from the age of 17.
The lymphatic system describes a vascular network, connected by lymphatic channels, which supports the immune defence. It transports tissue fluid and proteins (including pathogens) from intercellular spaces first into veins, then into lymph nodes. There everything is filtered and cleaned. Muscles and joints function as a supporting pump in this circulation.