Lymphedema, or lymphatic edema, refers to increased volume of body segments due to localized or extensive lymphatic system disturbances that cause decreased lymph transport, without regard to the primary cause. Characteristically, chronic lymph stasis promotes both fluid accumulation and tissue changes. Defective uptake of large molecules retains water within the interstitial space and, over time, lymph stasis leads to progressive tissue changes, characterized by abnormal growth of subcutaneous tissue and intercellular matrix, and increased skin thickness. It is noteworthy that, beyond tissue fluid control, lymphatics play other important roles in tissue homeostasis, which makes lymphedema unique and far more complex than edema caused by other vascular or systemic factors.
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