Lymphedema Education

Lymphedema occurs when the normal flow of lymph fluid is blocked, causing a buildup of fluid in the tissues under your skin. This buildup causes swelling, most commonly in the legs or arms.

Normally, lymph carries foreign material and bacteria from the body’s skin and tissues, and circulates infection fighting cells from the immune system.  The lymph flows through the lymphatic system, stopping to be filtered through the lymph nodes.  The lymph nodes are small bean-shaped organs that work within the immune system.

Symptoms of Lymphedema include swelling and a feeling of heaviness or fullness, typically beginning in the legs or arms. The affected limb may ache, feel tight and be difficult to move or bend because of the swelling. If left too long, there is a risk of skin infection developing.

    There are two types of lymphedema, primary and secondary. Common causes of secondary lymphedema are:

    • Surgery – surgical incisions and removal of lymph nodes interfere with normal lymph flow
    • Infection – severe infection of lymphatic vessels from parasites (found in tropics and subtropics)
    • Cancer – Lymphoma (cancer in lymph nodes), or cancer that spreads to lymph nodes
    • Radiation therapy – can cause scar tissue to block lymphatic vessels

    Primary lymphedema:

      • Congenital – occurs at birth, usually affecting legs and less often, arms
      • Occuring before the age of 36 – develops in the teen years
      • After age 36 years – rarest form of lymphedema

      Breast cancer or prostate cancer surgery increase the chance of developing lymphedema. Specific exercises may be prescribed to help the lymph flow. Elevating the affected limb, avoiding tight clothing and wearing a compression stocking fit by a professional are good preventative measures.

      If you develop symptoms of lymphedema, contact a healthcare professional in your area for further information and treatment options.

Specific Techniques


Select a region to view to corresponding Lymphedema Education professionals operating there: