lymphedema (see also Elephantiasis) may be inherited (primary) or caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels (secondary). It is seen more frequently after dissection of the lymph nodes, surgery or radiation therapy, in which the lymphatic system is damaged during the treatment of cancer, especially breast cancer. In many patients with cancer this condition does not develop until months or even years after therapy has concluded. Lymphedema may also be associated with accidents or certain diseases or problems that may inhibit the lymphatic system to work properly. In tropical areas of the world, a common cause of secondary lymphedema is filariasis, a parasitic infection. You may also be due to compromised lymphatic system resulting from cellulitis.
Although the exact cause of primary lymphedema usually occurs because the lymph nodes or poorly developed or missing channels in the body. Lymphedema can be present at birth, develop at the onset of puberty (praecox) or undetected for many years into adulthood (tarda). Some cases of lymphedema may be associated with other vascular abnormalities.
Lymphedema affects both men and women. In women, it is more common in the upper limbs after breast cancer surgery and lymph node dissection, occurring in the body side arm which carries out the surgery. You can also occur in the lower limbs or groin after surgery for colon, ovarian or uterine cancer that required the removal of lymph nodes. In men, lower limb primary lymphedema is more common, occurring in one or both legs. Surgery and / or treatment of prostate, colon and testicular cancer can cause secondary lymphedema, particularly where lymph nodes are removed or damaged.
The onset of secondary lymphedema in patients who have had cancer surgery has also been associated with the flight of aircraft (probably due to decreased cabin pressure). For breast cancer survivors, wearing a low compression sleeve prescribed and properly equipped and glove can help decrease swelling during flight.
Some cases of lower limb lymphedema have been associated with tamoxifen, due to blood clots and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which may be caused by this drug.
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