If you’re at risk for developing lymphedema or if you have this condition, you should take action immediately to avoid it or keep it from getting worse.

Who is at risk for developing lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition caused by blockage in the lymphatic system. It often results from damaged, removed, or missing lymph vessels or nodes.

People receiving cancer treatments are at high risk of developing lymphedema. Cancer surgery that involves the removal of lymph nodes can predispose patients to develop lymphedema. Radiation therapy, which is often used for treating breast and other types of cancer, can also increase one’s risk of having lymphedema. This treatment can cause damage to the lymphatic system and limits the normal fluid drainage.

Is lymphedema fatal?

Lymphedema is not life-threatening but when left unmanaged, it can get fatal. Some of the serious complications of lymphedema include:


Lymphedema disrupts the skin’s protective acid layer. It also impacts the immune response of the affected tissues, making things more complicated. Plus, the protein and the waste products in the lymphedematous tissue can provide an ideal breeding ground for infection.

Cellulitis, erysipelas, and lymphangitis are just some of the possible infections that can result from lymphedema.

Untreated severe cases of lymphedema can result to lymphangiosarcoma. It’s a rare form of malignant tumor that may affect either the upper or the lower lymphedematous extremity.

Preventing Lymphedema-Related Complications

Lymphedema is not a fatal condition unless it’s left untreated. Although there is still no cure for lymphedema, there are ways to manage it.

1. Wear protective clothing when heading outdoors

Long-sleeve tops and pants can help protect the lymphedematous extremity from mosquito and bug bites which can increase your risk of infection.

2. Protect the affected site

Do not allow blood to be drawn or blood pressure cuff to be placed on the affected site.

3. Try using compression garments

Compression garments are usually advised to lymphedema patients who are traveling by airplane. However, the garment can be used all the time as it helps in facilitating the lymphatic flow.


Is lymphedema fatal?

No, it’s not but when left unmanaged, it can lead to more serious and even life-threatening complications.

If you have lymphedema even if it’s just a mild case, act on it immediately. The swelling and other symptoms can progress over time if you don’t do anything about them.

Image: Ashley Webb via Flickr
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