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Lymphedema Obesity – Symptoms, Causes And Treatments

Obesity is a significant risk factor for a variety of severe medical disorders. Lymphedema obesity is a persistent swelling of a bodily part. Generally, a limb is caused by a failure of the lymphatic system to discharge 'lymph' fluid effectively. Lymphedema obesity in the lower extremities may arise when a patient's body mass index (BMI) surpasses 50.

Obesity causes lymphedema because the extra weight puts undue strain on the lymph nodes in the groin, weakening the system. This results in a fluid backlog, similar to a plugged drain. The skin may thicken and stiffen, becoming red, dry, and heated to the touch.

What Is Lymphedema Obesity?

Lymphedema obesity is caused by a buildup of protein-rich fluid typically discharged via the lymphatic system. It usually affects the arms or legs, although it may also affect the chest wall, belly, neck, and genitals. More than 3 million Americans are affected. Lymphedema frequency among patients with morbid obesity is high, particularly among those with BMIs in the higher ranges.

Symptoms Of Lymphedema Obesity

Lymphedema symptoms and indications include:

  • Swelling of a portion of the whole arm or leg, including the fingers or toes
  • a sense of weight or constriction
  • Limited range of motion
  • Infections that reoccur
  • Skin hardening and thickening (fibrosis)

The signs and symptoms might be modest to severe. Lymphedema induced by cancer therapy may not manifest for months or years.

Obesity-related lymphedema often affects the legs, and in about three-quarters of patients, both legs simultaneously.

Swelling seems similar to other types of swelling in the disorder's early stages. For example, you should be able to use your finger to form a tiny temporary imprint on an area of swelling (known as the 'pitting' test). Node is also less common in the morning and worsens over the day. Tissue hardening occurs later in the syndrome, making the swelling seem denser and the limb feel heavier.

Lymphedema of the legs often affects the feet. The 'Stemmer's sign' test might help you detect whether your feet are swollen. Pinch and raise the skin on top of your foot where your toes meet your foot. If you can squeeze and lift the skin, you have no fluid swelling or fibrosis in your feet and are therefore less likely to suffer lymphedema.

Unfortunately, because of bigger limb size, the symptoms of lymphedema might be more difficult to detect in an obese person. These people may also have other illnesses that cause similar symptoms, such as venous insufficiency or lipedema, complicating precise diagnosis.

If you are obese, especially if your BMI is nearing 50, talk to your doctor about lymphedema to ensure they know your higher risk of getting this illness. Because your family doctor may have little or no expertise with lymphedema, you should not expect them to be concerned about it.

Legs having extremely high swellings
Legs having extremely high swellings

Causes Of Lymphedema Obesity

The lymphatic system is a network of veins that transport protein-rich lymph fluid in the body. It is a component of your immune system. Lymph nodes function as filters, including cells that fight infection and cancer.

The Muscle contractions push the lymph fluid through the lymph vessels you go about your day and little pumps in the lymph vessel wall. Lymphedema develops when lymph vessels arecannotacuate lymph fluid efficiently, often from an arm or leg.

The following are the most prevalent causes of lymphedema:

  • Cancer: Lymphedema may occur if cancer cells obstruct lymph veins. A tumor developing near a lymph node or lymph artery, for example, might become big enough to impede the passage of lymph fluid.
  • Cancer therapy using radiation: Scarring and inflammation of lymph nodes and lymph arteries may be caused by radiation.
  • Surgery: Lymph nodes are often removed during cancer surgery to determine whether the illness has spread. This, however, does not necessarily result in lymphedema.
  • Parasites: The most prevalent cause of lymphedema in developing nations is infection with threadlike worms obstructing lymph nodes.

Lymphedema is less usually caused by hereditary diseases in which the lymphatic system does not develop correctly.

Lymphedema Obesity Diagnosis

Suppose you are at risk of lymphedema, such as if you recently had cancer surgery that included your lymph nodes; your doctor may diagnose lymphedema based on your signs and symptoms.

If the source of your lymphedema is not immediately apparent, your doctor may request imaging tests to examine your lymph system. Among the possible tests are:

  • An MRI scan: An MRI creates 3D, high-resolution pictures of the affected tissue using a magnetic field and radio waves.
  • CT scan: This X-ray technology creates cross-sectional pictures of the body's components. CT scans may detect lymphatic system obstructions.
  • Ultrasound: This test generates pictures of interior structures using sound waves. It may aid in the detection of lymphatic and circulatory system blockages.
  • Lymphoscintigraphy: The subject is injected with a radioactive dye and then scanned by a machine during this procedure. The pictures produced show the dye traveling through the lymph vessels, showing any obstructions.

Treatment Of Lymphedema Obesity

Lymphedema has no cure. The treatment focuses on minimizing edema and avoiding complications.


Lymphedema significantly raises the risk of skin infections (cellulitis). Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics for you to have on hand so that you may begin taking them as soon as symptoms occur.


Lymphedema therapists can educate you about procedures and equipment that may help minimize lymphedema swelling. Examples include:

  • Exercises: A gentle contraction of the muscles in the arm or leg might assist transfer the extra fluid out of the swollen limb.
  • Manual lymph drainage: Therapists skilled in this massage-like method employ extremely minimal pressure to shift trapped fluid in the swollen leg into a location with functioning lymph arteries. Manual lymph draining should be avoided if a person has a skin infection, blood clots, or active malignancy in the afflicted limb.
  • Compression bandages: Using low-stretch bandages to wrap the whole leg helps lymph fluid flow back toward the body's trunk.
  • Compression garments: Close-fitting elastic sleeves or stockings may compress the arm or leg to promote lymph fluid evacuation. These garments often need a prescription to ensure that the right degree of compression is applied. A professional measurement may be required to guarantee an optimal fit.
  • Sequential pneumatic compression: A sleeve is worn over the afflicted arm or leg and is connected to a pump that intermittently inflates the sleeve, applying pressure on the limb and pushing lymph fluid away from the fingers or toes.

Surgical Procedures

Lymphedema surgery may include:

  • Transplantation of lymph nodes: Lymph nodes are removed from another part of the body and connected to the network of lymph veins in the diseased limb. Many patients with early-stage lymphedema benefit from this operation, reducing the required compression.
  • New drainage channels: This technique, another option for early-stage lymphedema, builds new connections between the lymph network and blood arteries. Excess lymph fluid is then evacuated from the limb through blood vessels.
  • Fibrous tissue removal: In severe lymphedema, the soft tissues in the limb become fibrous and rigid. Removing part of this hardened tissue, frequently by liposuction, may enhance limb function. In extreme circumstances, hardened tissue and skin may be removed using a scalpel.

People Also Ask

How Is The Lymphatic System Affected By Obesity?

Obesity has been demonstrated in recent research to have a significant harmful impact on the lymphatic system. Obesity caused by a high-fat diet (HFD) significantly reduces interstitial fluid movement, immune cell trafficking, and lymphatic collecting channel pumping.

What Are The 5 Main Reasons For Lymphedema?

  • Cancer. Lymphedema may occur if cancer cells obstruct lymph veins.
  • Cancer therapy using radiation. Scarring may be caused by radiation.
  • Lymph node or lymph vessel inflammation
  • Surgery. Lymph nodes are often removed during cancer surgery to determine whether the illness has spread.
  • Parasites.

Can Losing Weight Help Lymphedema?

The etiology of lymphedema is not entirely understood. However, there seems to be a link between obesity and a hereditary tendency. Weight loss is generally thought to help lessen lymphedema symptoms. This indicates that weight control is critical in lymphedema therapy.

Can Lymphedema Be Caused By Obesity?

Lymphedema is the gradual swelling of tissue caused by insufficient lymphatic activity. Obesity-induced lymphedema of the lower limbs may arise when a patient's BMI surpasses 50.


Extreme obesity might result in lymphatic dysfunction in the extremities. Like lymphedema obesity, There seems to be a BMI threshold at which lower extremity lymphedema develops, followed by upper extremity illness. Obesity-induced lymphedema patients are directed to a bariatric facility since losing weight seems to enhance lymphatic function but may not reverse the problem.

About The Authors

Suleman Shah

Suleman Shah - Suleman Shah is a researcher and freelance writer. As a researcher, he has worked with MNS University of Agriculture, Multan (Pakistan) and Texas A & M University (USA). He regularly writes science articles and blogs for science news website immersse.com and open access publishers OA Publishing London and Scientific Times. He loves to keep himself updated on scientific developments and convert these developments into everyday language to update the readers about the developments in the scientific era. His primary research focus is Plant sciences, and he contributed to this field by publishing his research in scientific journals and presenting his work at many Conferences. Shah graduated from the University of Agriculture Faisalabad (Pakistan) and started his professional carrier with Jaffer Agro Services and later with the Agriculture Department of the Government of Pakistan. His research interest compelled and attracted him to proceed with his carrier in Plant sciences research. So, he started his Ph.D. in Soil Science at MNS University of Agriculture Multan (Pakistan). Later, he started working as a visiting scholar with Texas A&M University (USA). Shah’s experience with big Open Excess publishers like Springers, Frontiers, MDPI, etc., testified to his belief in Open Access as a barrier-removing mechanism between researchers and the readers of their research. Shah believes that Open Access is revolutionizing the publication process and benefitting research in all fields.

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