Lymphedema is a swelling of a body part, most often extremity, caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid. It can also occur in the face, neck abdomen and lungs. Although it is a chronic and progressive condition, it can usually be brought under control by good care and attention to certain basic rules. Lymphedema is compatible with a normal and active lifestyle. The condition most often causes a feeling of heaviness, cosmetic deformity, slight discomfort, repeated episodes of infection (cellulius and lymphangitis) and in rare cases, malignant degeneration.
Primary cases are those that occur without any obvious cause. They may be present at birth, at adolescence or develop after age 35. Some cases are familial as well as congenital. Primary lymphedema is more common in females and occurs more often in the lower extremities.
Injury, scarring or excision of the lymph nodes causes secondary lymphedema. This usually occurs as a result of previous radiation and/or surgery of lymph nodes in the neck, axilla, pelvis or groin. Such treatments are commonly given for cancers of the breast, uterus, bladder, ovary, prostate or testicle and form malignant melanomas and lymphomas. Occasionally, trauma to or chronic infections of the lymph system cause secondary lymphedemas.
The outpatient breast cancer rehabilitation program is co-sponsored by the Cancer Institute at Florida Hospital and Florida Hospital Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.
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