A variety of conditions lead to lymphedema.  These conditions which are are grouped by the mechanism which caused them, include  primary and secondary lymphedema.

Primary Lymphedema:  Primary lymphedema includes a variety of congenital, genetic or acquired conditions which result in varying degrees of lymphedema. The following list includes some of the conditions which have been associated with causing primary lymphedema:

1. Milroy’s Disease (congenital lymphedema)

2. Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber Syndrome

3.  Meige’s Disease (lymphedema praecox)

4. Late onset lymphedema (lymphedema tardae)

5. Hair Tourniquet Syndrome

Secondary  Lymphedema:  Secondary  lymphedema includes a variety of conditions generally caused by surgery or injury, which result in varying degrees of lyphedema. The following list includes some of the conditions which have been associated with causing secondary lymphedema:

1. Surgical removal or dissection of lymph nodes.  Surgical removal of the lymph nodes is a common intervention in the surgical treatment of breast cancer and head and neck cancers. Biopsy and surgical removal of a single suspicious lymph node infrequently can also lead to lymphedema. Mastectomy is the surgical intervention most commonly associated with secondary lymphedema.

2. Radiation therapy

3. Drugs.  Tamoxifen has been implicated with causing lymphedema and there are a variety of agents which can exacerbate fluid accumulation.  These drugs include: certain dihydropyridine class calcium channel blockers such as amlodipine,  felodipine, nicardipine and nifedipine certain anti-glycemic agents such as those used to treat diabetes including agents such as glipizide, glyburide, and thioglitazones such as rosiglitazone.

4. Malignancy.  Malignant conditions can lead to blockage or destruction of the lymph nodes or lymph channels which can in turn lead to lymphedema. In breast cancer, a noted characteristic of late stage breast cancer was found when the breast becomes very swollen, hard and discolored ad takes on an orange peel like quality refered to in the medical literature as peau’ de orange.  Other malignancies such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, can also cause lymphedema

5. Filariasis

6. Bacterial, viral and fungal infections:

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Cancerquest Video: Lymphedema

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