Lymphedema is a condition where the extremities become swollen as a result of damage to the body’s lymphatic system—particularly the lymph nodes. A part of the immune system, the lymphatic system is “a network of vessels that course throughout the body to collect excess fluid as well as waste products,” defines eMedicineHealth.com.
Because these excess fluids and waste products are filtered through the lymph nodes, if they become damaged, it can lead to a build up in various parts of the body, resulting in swelling. There are a variety of factors that can cause this damage, which we’ll discuss below, along with the most common symptoms of lymphedema to be mindful of.
Causes of Primary Lymphedema
1. Congenital Lymphedema
Primary lymphedema is rare, and happens as a result of genetic mutations that cause the lymph vessels to develop improperly, “undermining its ability to drain fluid properly,” says MedicalNewsToday.com.
Congenital lymphedema is one such cause of primary lymphedema, and is present at birth. It is “more common in females, and accounts for about 20% of all cases of primary lymphedema,” says MedicineNet.com. The source adds that there is a subtype of congenital lymphedema as well, termed Milroy disease, where the condition occurs as a result of genetic inheritance.