Skip to Content


Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition in which swelling — also called edema — occurs.

The cause is an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the space between the body's cells.

Lymphedema can be present at birth. It also commonly occurs after the removal of or damage to lymph nodes during cancer treatment.

It usually affects the arms or legs.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

Symptoms of can include:

  • Swelling in your arms, feet, and/or legs.
  • Heaviness or tightness in your arms or legs.
  • Limited range of motion due to swelling.
  • Ulcers or sores on the legs, in advanced stages.

Lymphedema symptoms can be like those of other vascular conditions, including:

Lymphedema Treatment

Treatment options for lymphedema include:

  • Leg elevation.
  • Manual lymphatic massage by a physical therapy team.
  • Leg compression with stockings, wraps, or layered bandages.
  • Exercise and weight loss.
  • Local wound care, if necessary.

If you have lymphedema, your UPMC vascular surgeon will refer you to UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, which offers comprehensive lymphedema management and treatment

Learn More at UPMC Health Beat

Follow the beat for a healthier life. Check out this post from UPMC HealthBeat: