Mayo Clin Proc. 2020 Aug 20:S0025-6196(20)30033-1. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2020.01.006. Online ahead of print.
Lymphedema has historically been underrated in clinical practice, education, and scholarship to the detriment of many patients with this chronic, debilitating condition. The mechanical insufficiency of the lymphatic system causes the abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the interstitium, which triggers a cascade of adverse consequences such as fat deposition and fibrosis. As the condition progresses, patients present with extremity heaviness, itchiness, skin infections, and, in later stages, dermal fibrosis, skin papillomas, acanthosis, and other trophic skin changes. Correspondingly, lymphedema results in psychological morbidity, including anxiety, depression, social avoidance, and a decreased quality of life, encompassing emotional, functional, physical, and social domains. For this review, we conducted a literature search using PubMed and EMBASE and herein summarize the evidence related to the fundamental concepts of lymphedema. This article aims to raise awareness of this serious condition and outline and review the fundamental concepts of lymphedema.