BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuLymphatic obstructionLymphedemaLymphatic obstruction is a blockage of the lymph vessels that drain fluid from tissues throughout the body and allow immune cells to travel where they are needed. Lymphatic obstruction may cause lymphedema, which means swelling due to a blockage of the lymph passages.Lymph vesselsThe lymph system is a network of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels that make and move lymph from tissues to the bloodstream. The l...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Causes The most common reason for lymphatic obstruction is the removal or enlargement of the lymph nodes.Other causes of lymphatic obstruction include:Infections with parasites, such as filariasis Injury Radiation therapy Radiation therapyRadiation therapy uses high-powered x-rays, particles, or radioactive seeds to kill cancer cells.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Skin infections, such as cellulitis (more common in obese people) CellulitisCellulitis is a common skin infection caused by bacteria. It affects the middle layer of the skin (dermis) and the tissues below. Sometimes, muscle...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Surgery TumorsTumorsA tumor is an abnormal growth of body tissue. Tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).Read Article Now Book Mark Article A common cause of lymphedema is removal of the breast (mastectomy) and underarm lymph tissue for breast cancer treatment. This causes lymphedema of the arm in some people, because the lymphatic drainage of the arm passes through the armpit (axilla).MastectomyA mastectomy is surgery to remove the breast tissue. Some of the skin and the nipple may also be removed. However, surgery that spares the nipple a...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Rare forms of lymphedema that are present from birth (congenital) may result from problems in the development of the lymphatic vessels. Symptoms The main symptom is persistent (chronic) swelling, usually of the arm or leg. Exams and Tests The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. This will include questions about how much the swelling improves with elevation and how firm the tissues are.The following tests may be done:CT or MRI scan CTA computed tomography (CT) scan is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body. Related tests include:Abdomin...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article MRIA magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is an imaging test that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the body. It does not us...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Imaging tests to check the lymph nodes and lymph drainage (lymphangiography and lymphoscintigraphy)LymphangiographyA lymphangiogram is a special x-ray of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels. Lymph nodes produce white blood cells (lymphocytes) that help fight infect...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Treatment Treatment for lymphedema includes:Compression (usually with wrapping in bandages or stockings) Manual lymph drainage (MLD) Range of motion or resistance exercises Manual lymph drainage is a light massage therapy technique. During massage, the skin is moved in certain directions based on the structure of the lymphatic system. This helps the lymph fluid drain through the proper channels.Treatment also includes skin care to prevent injuries, infection, and skin breakdown. Light exercise and movement programs may also be prescribed. Wearing compression garments on the affected area or using a pneumatic compression pump may be helpful. Your provider and physical therapist will decide which compression methods are best.Surgery is used in some cases, but it has limited success. The surgeon must have a lot of experience with this type of procedure. You will still need physical therapy after surgery to reduce lymphedema.Types of surgery include:Liposuction LiposuctionLiposuction is the removal of excess body fat by suction using special surgical equipment. A plastic surgeon typically does the surgery.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Removal of abnormal lymphatic tissue Transplant of normal lymphatic tissues to areas with abnormal lymphatic drainage (rarely done) In rare cases, surgery to bypass abnormal lymph tissue using vein grafts is done. These procedures are most effective for early lymphedema and should be performed by an experienced surgeon. Outlook (Prognosis) Lymphedema is a chronic disease that usually requires lifelong management. In some cases, lymphedema improves with time. Some swelling is usually permanent.ChronicChronic refers to something that continues over an extended period of time. A chronic condition is usually long-lasting and does not easily or quick...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Possible Complications In addition to swelling, the most common complications include:Chronic wounds and ulcers UlcersAn ulcer is a crater-like sore on the skin or mucous membrane. Ulcers form when the top layers of skin or tissue have been removed. They can occur ...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Skin breakdown Cancer of the lymph tissue (rare) When to Contact a Medical Professional See your provider if you have swelling of your arms, legs, or lymph nodes that does not respond to treatment or go away. Prevention Most surgeons now use a technique called sentinel lymph node sampling to reduce your risk for lymphedema after breast cancer surgery. However, this technique is not always appropriate or effective.Open ReferencesReferencesJackson KA, Feldman JL, Armer JM. Lymphedema risk reduction and management. In: Cheng MH, Chang DW, Patel KM, eds. Principles and Practice of Lymphedema Surgery. 2nd ed. St Louis, MA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 10.Rockson SG. Lymphedema: evaluation and decision making. In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 168.AllVideoImagesTogLymphatic system - illustration The lymphatic system filters fluid from around cells. It is an important part of the immune system. When people refer to swollen glands in the neck, they are usually referring to swollen lymph nodes. Common areas where lymph nodes can be easily felt, especially if they are enlarged, are the groin, armpits (axilla), above the clavicle (supraclavicular), in the neck (cervical), and the back of the head just above hairline (occipital).Lymphatic systemillustrationYellow nail syndrome - illustration Yellow nail syndrome is characterized by yellow nails that lack a cuticle, grow slowly, and are loose or detached (onycholysis). Yellow nail syndrome is most commonly associated with lung disorders, and with lymphedema.Yellow nail syndromeillustrationLymphatic system - illustration The lymphatic system filters fluid from around cells. It is an important part of the immune system. When people refer to swollen glands in the neck, they are usually referring to swollen lymph nodes. Common areas where lymph nodes can be easily felt, especially if they are enlarged, are the groin, armpits (axilla), above the clavicle (supraclavicular), in the neck (cervical), and the back of the head just above hairline (occipital).Lymphatic systemillustrationYellow nail syndrome - illustration Yellow nail syndrome is characterized by yellow nails that lack a cuticle, grow slowly, and are loose or detached (onycholysis). Yellow nail syndrome is most commonly associated with lung disorders, and with lymphedema.Yellow nail syndromeillustrationRelated Information Cellulitis(Condition)Tumor(Condition)Radiation therapy(Special Topic)Mastectomy(Surgery)Breast cancer(In-Depth) Review Date: 1/17/2021 Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- © 1997- All rights reserved. A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.Content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.