lymphedema lym·phe·de·ma (lĭm'fĭ-dē'mə)
Swelling, especially in subcutaneous tissues, as a result of obstruction of lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes, with accumulation of lymph in the affected region.
an abnormal condition in which drainage of the lymphatic system is blocked, allowing fluid to build up in the tissues. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary in form. Primary lymphedema occurs most commonly as simple congenital lymphedema, which is present at birth but is not familial (hereditary). Similar familial forms are seen in such disorders as Milroy's disease and Noonan's syndrome. The lymphedema in all these types usually involves both legs below the knees and begins as a painless swelling in the foot that moves up to the leg as it progresses. Although the swelling is initially painless, it may impair leg function in extreme cases and be cosmetically undesirable. Primary lymphedema is more common in women and is treated by regular elevations of the affected limbs and external compression with elastic stockings. In very severe cases, surgical drainage of the obstructed lymph channels may be necessary. In its secondary form, lymphedema most commonly results from infection, and it also can occur after the surgical removal of lymph nodes or after radiation treatments used to fight cancer. If caused by infection, it can be treated with antibiotics.
Learn more about lymphedema with a free trial on Britannica.com.