Lymphedema - Edema
What is edema?
Edema is observable swelling from fluid accumulation in body tissues. Edema most
commonly occurs in the feet and legs, where it is referred to as peripheral edema.
The swelling is the result of the accumulation of excess fluid under the skin in the
spaces within the tissues. All tissues of the body are made up of cells and connective
tissues that hold the cells together. This connective tissue around the cells and blood
vessels is known as the interstitium. Most of the body's fluids that are found outside
of the cells are normally stored in two spaces; the blood vessels (as the "liquid" or
serum portion of your blood) and the interstitial spaces (not within the cells). In various
diseases, excess fluid can accumulate in either one or both of these compartments.
The body's organs have interstitial spaces where fluid can accumulate. An accumulation
of fluid in the interstitial air spaces (alveoli) in the lungs occurs in a disorder called
pulmonary edema. In addition, excess fluid sometimes collects in what is called the
third space, which includes cavities in the abdomen (abdominal or peritoneal cavity - called "ascites") or in the chest
(lung or pleural cavity - called "pleural effusion"). Anasarca refers to the severe, widespread accumulation of fluid in the
all of the tissues and cavities of the body at the same time.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema: A common chronic, debilitating condition in which excess fluid called lymph collects in tissues and causes
swelling (edema - refer below) in them.
Lymphedema (edema due to lymphatic fluid) may occur in the arms or legs. This often happens after lymph vessels or
lymph nodes in the axilla (armpit) or groin are removed by surgery or damaged by radiation, impairing the normal
drainage of lymphatic fluid. Lymphedema may also due to a mass such as a tumor pressing on the lymphatic vessels.
Congenital lymphedema: In many other cases, lymphedema is evident at birth and is due to a congenital malformation
(that is, a birth defect) of the lymphatic system. Congenital lymphedema can be found associated with the Noonan and
Turner syndromes and a number of forms of lymphedema are clearly due to genetic factors.