Lymphedema is classified as either primary or secondary, with secondary being the most common type. Lymphedema is swelling of any location on the body from the head to toe but is most found in the extremities. The cause of lymphedema can be summed up as an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid in an affected area. The origin of primary lymphedema is lymphatic dysplasia developing from birth but presenting more commonly later in life without evident cause. The origin of secondary lymphedema is cancer radiation therapy, surgery, endocrine disease, venous disease, injury, scarring, inflammation, immobility, or infection of the lymphatic system.1,2

The most common form of lymphedema worldwide may be filarial infection, but the most common in the Western world is phlebolymphedema. Phlebolymphedema is a mixed-etiology swelling due to chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and lymphatic insufficiency. Phlebolymphedema is most commonly due to inability of the lymphatic system to adequately drain the interstitial fluid that accumulates in severe chronic venous hypertension. 3

1. Norton School of Lymphatic Therapy. Accessed May 19, 2019.
2. Hettrick H, Aviles F Jr. Tearing down the silos of lymphedema care in the wound clinic. Today’s Wound Clinic. 2017;11(10).…. Accessed May 19, 2019.

3.Farrow W. Phlebolymphedema–a common underdiagnosed and undertreated problem in the wound care clinic. J Am Col Certif Wound Spec. 2010;2(1):14-23.

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