Causes of Lymphedema

Some of the causes of lymphedema are:

  • Surgery: The removal of lymph nodes and lymph vessels can result in lymphedema. For example, this may occur during surgery for breast cancer. Other procedures that may cause lymphedema include a simple mastectomy, modified radical mastectomy or lumpectomy combined with axillary lymph node removal.
  • Radiation Therapy: Undergoing radiation therapy can result in inflammation and scarring of the lymph nodes, and eventually lymphedema.
  • Cancer: Cancer cells may sometimes cause a blockage of lymph vessels resulting in lymphedema.
  • Infection: An infection or a parasitical infestation of the lymph nodes may result in a blockage that causes lymphedema. This is common in developing countries and hot climates.
  • Milroy’s Disease (congenital lymphedema): This is a rare condition that begins just after birth, causing abnormal development of the lymph nodes resulting in lymphedema.
  • Meige's Disease: This is a hereditary disorder that causes the lymphatic system to develop without the valves that regulate the flow of lymphatic fluid. It usually occurs in childhood or around puberty, but may also occur as late as the 30s.
  • Late Onset Lymphedema - Another rare type of lymphedema, it usually develops after the age of 35 years.

Some of the risk factors that increase the chances of developing lymphedema include:

  • Surgery at a lymph node region such as the armpit, neck, abdomen, pelvis or groin
  • People who have undergone radiation therapy

Lymphedema make an appearance at any time after surgery, even after a few years.