Lymphedema Lymphedema is what we call swelling caused by a buildup of lymphatic fluid in the body. This most commonly happens in the legs and arms, but it can happen in other places as well. Your lymphatic system can be considered the “sewage” system of your body. Your body has around 800 lymph nodes that help facilitate fluid movement throughout it. However, similar to an actual sewage system, your lymphatic system can become clogged and begin to “overflow.” These blockages can lead to lymphedema. Lymphedema can cause swelling, tightness, recurring infections, damage to the skin, hardening of the skin, restricted range of motion, and more. Let’s take a closer look at what can cause lymphedema.

Primary Causes

Lymphedema is separated into two different categories. Primary lymphedema is caused by genetics, is rare, and is an inherited condition that affects the lymph nodes. Some conditions that can cause primary lymphedema include Meige‘s disease, Milroy‘s disease, and late-onset lymphedema.

Secondary Causes

Secondary lymphedema is the most common form of lymphedema and is caused by anything that damages the lymphatic system. Let’s explore some secondary lymphedema causes.

Cancer or Tumors

Cancer spreads rapidly and can affect various parts of the body. However, the lymphatic system is spread throughout the body and can be affected by a wide range of cancers. Tumors can physically block the draining and moving of lymphatic fluid. This can create a blockage and lead to lymphedema.


It may sometimes be necessary to remove certain lymph nodes during surgery. This causes the inherent risk of causing issues like lymphedema. Some surgical procedures may even accidentally damage a nearby lymph node.


Radiation can damage almost any biological tissue, including your lymph nodes. This is most commonly caused by radiation treatment. Your lymph nodes will become inflamed and irritated and develop scar tissue in response to radiation damage. This can cause blockages to occur and may develop into lymphedema.

Seeking Treatment

With the various things that cause lymphedema, it can be difficult to know what’s causing your condition. Thankfully, our Suffolk Vascular & Vein Center team provides comprehensive lymphedema care. Our staff has proudly served our community for 25 years and brings expertise to every treatment. If you’re experiencing lymphedema, contact Suffolk Vascular & Vein Center at 631-476-9100.

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