Lymphedema is a progressive, usually unrelenting, and variably painful swelling of the limbs and/or genitalia resulting from lymphatic system insufficiency and deranged lymphatic transport. At the physical level, lymphedema is characterized by swelling of the tissues and eventual thickening and hardening of the skin and soft tissue. At the microvascular level, inadequate clearance of lymph causes the abnormal accumulation of interstitial fluid, which incites cellular proliferation and inflammation.1 Chronic inflammation of lymphatic structures and surrounding tissue results in subcutaneous and lymph vessel fibrosis with irreversible structural damage.2,3 As a result of underlying lymphatic damage, normal immune defenses are diminished. Therefore, lymphedema can best be described as a condition of impaired immunity, and a process of degeneration and chronic inflammation of the lymphatic structures and surrounding tissue.
KeywordsLymphatic System Manual Lymphatic Drainage Chronic Lymphedema Secondary Lymphedema Lymphatic Structure
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