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What is lymphedema?
Swelling of the arms and legs caused by buildup of lymphatic fluid: types, causes, symptoms, and risks of lymphedema.
Diagnosis of Lymphedema
Identification of underlying condition.
Lymphedema Treatment and Surgery
Treatment methods include compression devices and stent-grafts.
Why choose NYU?
Largest team of leading-edge vascular surgeons in New York City who treat lymphedema. Academic medical experts committed to research and clinical trials to improve treatment.
NYU Lymphedema Doctors
Vascular specialists at New York University who treat patients with swelling of legs and arms.
Lymphedema occurs when the arms and legs swell from a buildup of lymphatic fluid.
Types of Lymphedema
1. Inherited (primary) lymphedema
Patients with inherited lymphedema were born lacking lymph vessels and nodes. Primary lymphedema is characterized by swelling in the foot or calf, usually appearing during adolescence.
2. Acquired (secondary) lymphedema
Acquired lymphedema, characterized by swelling in the arms, hands, legs, and feet, is caused by injury to the lymphatic system (e.g., surgery on the blood vessels in your limbs such as angioplasty, stenting, or leg bypass surgery.
Secondary lymphedema is more common than primary lymphedema.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
Symptoms of acquired lymphedema may develop as long as 15–20 years following the injury to the lymphatic system.
- Sudden tightness of rings or shoes
- Weak, heavy, red, swollen arm or leg
- Decreased flexibility in the wrist or ankle
A skin injury as minor as a cut, scratch, or insect bite on a swollen limb can lead to severe infection (lymphangitis). Repeated infections lead to fibrosis (tissue hardening) and chronic risk of swelling and infection.
More information about lymphedema is available on the Society for Vascular Surgery website.
Diagnosis begins with a physical exam and patient interview with questions about general health, medical history, and symptoms.
NYU physicians rule out other conditions that could cause swelling of the arms or legs (e.g., tumors or infection).
The physician may also order tests, including:
- CT (computed tomography) scan, also known as a "cat scan", or non-invasive imaging study involving small amounts of radiation exposure. A CT scan enables doctors to view what is going on in the inside of the body from the outside.
- Sonogram (duplex ultrasound)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), a machine that produces a detailed picture of the veins and arteries
Each of these diagnostic tests is performed on site at NYU Medical Center.
Vascular surgeons at NYU design individualized lymphedema treatment based on each patient’s general health, medical history, and particular needs.
The best treatment option depends on the underlying causes of the arm and leg swelling. Treatment methods include:
- conservative management (e.g., use of a compression stocking or elastic bandage)
- placement of stent-grafts in the arteries to improve circulation through the limbs
NYU Medical Center’s vascular surgeons work with each patient to critically evaluate his or her unique needs to produce the best individualized treatment plan.
NYU Division of Vascular Surgery offers the largest team of top-level vascular specialists < lymphedemadoctorsinnewyorkcity.html> in New York City. Members of a leading academic medical center, NYU’s vascular surgeons are committed to finding the most advanced, innovative, proven methods to treat lymphedema.
Each of NYU’s vascular surgeons is a faculty member working to translate internationally prominent clinical and academic research into new, promising treatment methods and better medical care. Clinical trials and leading-edge research at NYU evaluate promising new techniques to treat varicose veins. NYU’s physicians participate in scientific review boards, provide high-quality medical care for participating patients, and assist the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in evaluating new treatment methods for FDA approval.
NYU Langone Medical Center
550 First Avenue
New York, NY 10016
Mark A. Adelman,
Chief of Vascular Surgery
Director of the NYU Endovascular Surgery Program
Glenn R. Jacobowitz,
Vice Chief of the NYU Division of Vascular Surgery / Director of Vascular Surgical Services at Tisch Hospital
Lowell S. Kabnick,
Director of the NYU Vein Center
Patrick J. Lamparello,
Vice-Chair of Vascular Surgery / Director of the Vascular Surgery Fellowship Program
Chief of Vascular Surgery, Bellevue Hospital
Firas F. Mussa,
Assistant Professor of Surgery at the NYU School of Medicine
Thomas S. Riles.
Associate Dean for Medical Education and Technology / Frank C. Spencer Professor of Surgery
Director of Medical Education and the Director of Clinical Research for the NYU Division of Vascular Surgery
Frank J. Veith,
The First U.S. Surgeon to Perform an Endovascular Aneurysm Repair