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Lymphoedema can affect patients of all ages. Younger patients may need help to cut through the medical jargon and understand what’s happening, why it’s happening and what we can do to help keep it under control. These pages are for them.

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema happens when your body’s system for washing away any germs or bacteria that get under your skin if you cut or scratch yourself isn’t working properly.

This system is called the lymphatic system and it can go wrong for lots of reasons, including an infection, a family history of lymphatic problems, an illness or an operation.

In a healthy lymphatic system, a liquid called lymph carries the germs and bacteria through the tiny tubes or ‘vessels’ that take your blood round your body. The vessels take the lymph from your arms and legs back towards the middle of your body and it gets cleaned several times on the way by lymph nodes that take all the bad stuff out.

If your lymphatic system isn’t working properly, it means that the lymph gets stuck which causes swelling in your body and stops your body from being able to fight infection quite so well.