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How does lymphoedema occur?

Lymphoedema can occur for various reasons and can develop at any age. There are two types of lymphoedema: primary lymphoedema when the person is born without sufficient lymph nodes, and secondary lymphoedema when the lymphatic system becomes impaired during life. This maybe due to surgery for cancer treatment, radiotherapy, infection, damage to the veins in the leg (venous disease),  reduced mobility, injury / trauma or being over weight.


Primary lymphoedema is often more common in women. It may be present at birth (Milroy’s), develop during puberty (Praecox) or develop later in life (Tarda).  Lymphoedema can occur in any part of the body depending on where the affected lymph nodes lie.