Updated: Jan 10
Lymphedema is a condition that causes swelling in the arms and legs. It occurs when fluid builds up because of a blockage in the lymphatic system. This can happen for many reasons, but it's most common in people who have had cancer, cancer treatment, parasites, or surgery to remove lymph nodes.
The condition can be treated with compression garments, exercises to help move the fluid through the body, or medication. However, many people don't know they have lymphedema until they've already been living with it for years.
Lymphedema is more common in older adults than younger adults because of age-related changes to their lymphatic system. The symptoms are also more noticeable as we get older and our skin becomes thinner and less elastic over time.
Causes of Lymphedema and Developmental Factors
Lymphedema can also occur as a result of congenital abnormalities, such as hereditary lymphedema.
There are many factors that influence the development of Lymphedema:
Age: The risk for Lymphedema increases with age because it becomes more difficult for the body to produce new lymphatic vessels and nodes.
Gender: Women have a higher risk for developing lymphedema than men because they have more extensive lymphatic networks.
Genetics: People who have family members with lymphedema are at greater risk than those who do not.
Symptoms of Lymphedema in the Elderly Patient
Lymphedema can also cause chronic pain, muscle atrophy, and loss of function in joints.
Symptoms of lymphedema in adults:
- Swelling (usually in one limb)
- Painful skin
- Reduced range of motion
- Worsening symptoms with exercise
Treatments for elderly patients with lymphedema are often tailored to the individual. The treatment will depend on where the swelling is located and how severe it is.
When to see a doctor for Lymphedemas
It may be hard to know when to go to the hospital for lymphedemas, but there are some signs that you should look out for. These include:
- Swelling in the arm or leg that doesn't go away after 3 months
- Skin breakdown on the affected limb
- Pain in the affected limb
Have more questions? Comment below.
For emergencies, always call 911 or contact your primary provider.
Disclaimer: This website is for informational purposes only. Learn more here.