Vascular Disease (cont.)
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The lymphatic system is a circulatory system that includes an extensive network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes. The lymphatic system helps coordinate the immune system's function to protect the body from foreign substances.
Lymphedema is an abnormal build-up of fluid that causes swelling, most often in the arms or legs. Lymphedema develops when lymph vessels or lymph nodes are missing, impaired, damaged, or removed.
Primary lymphedema is rare and is caused by the absence of certain lymph vessels at birth, or it may be caused by abnormalities in the lymphatic vessels.
Secondary lymphedema occurs as a result of a blockage or interruption that alters the lymphatic system. Secondary lymphedema can develop from an infection, malignancy, surgery, scar tissue formation, trauma, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), radiation, or other cancer treatment.
WebMD Medical Reference
Reviewed by Robert J Bryg, MD on March 07, 2009
Last Editorial Review: 4/7/2009