Lymphedema that has become permanent versus transient.
The most difficult of all types of edema to treat. the damaged lymphatic system of the affected area is not able to keep up with the increased need for fluid drainage from the body tissues. This may happen: - after a tumor recurs or spreads to the lymph nodes - after an infection and/or injury of the lymphatic vessels - after periods of not being able to move the limbs - after radiation therapy or surgery - when early signs of lymphedema have not been able to be controlled - when a vein is blocked by a blood clot. A patient who is in the early stages of developing lymphedema will have swelling that indents with pressure and stays indented but remains soft. The swelling may easily improve by supporting the arm or leg in a raised position, gently exercising, and wearing elastic support garments. Continued problems with the lymphatic system cause the lymphatic vessels to expand and lymph flows back into the body tissues, making the condition worse. This causes pain, heat, redness, and swelling as the body tries to get rid of the extra fluid. The skin becomes hard and stiff and no longer improves with raised support of the arm or leg, gentle exercise, or elastic support garments. Patients with chronic lymphedema are at increased risk of infection. No effective treatment is yet available for patients who have advanced chronic lymphedema. Once the body tissues have been repeatedly stretched, lymphedema may recur more easily.