Complications of Leg Lymphedema
1. Infections such as cellulitis, lymphangitis, erysipelas. This is due not only to the large accumulation of fluid, but it is well documented that lymphodemous limbs are localized immunodeficient and the proein rich fluid provides an excellent nurturing invironment for bacteria.
2. Draining wounds that leak lymphorrea which is very caustic to surrounding skin tissue and acts as a port of entry for infections.
3. Increased pain as a result of the compression of nerves usually caused by the development of fibrosis and increased build up of fluids.
4. Loss of Function due to the swelling and limb changes.
5. Depression - Psychological coping as a result of the disfigurement and debilitating effect of lymphedema.
6. Deep venous thrombosis again as a result of the pressure of the swelling and fibrosis against the vascular system. Also, can happen as a result of cellulitis, lymphangitis and infections. See also Thrombophlebitis
7. Sepsis, Gangrene are possibilities as a result of the infections.
8. Possible amputation of the limb.
9. Pleural effusions may result if the lymphatics in the abdomen or chest are to overwhelmed to clear the lung cavity of fluids.
10. Skin complications such as dry skin, splitting, plaques and nodules, susceptibility to fungus and bacterial infections.
11. Chronic localized inflammations.
12. Pain ranging from mild in early lymphedema to severe in late stage lymphedema.
13. Lymphatic cancers which can include angiosarcoma, lymphoma; Kaposi's Sarcoma; lymphangiosarcoma (Stewart_treves Syndrome); Cutaneous T-Cell lymphoma; Cutaneous B-Cell lymphoma; Pseudolymphomatous Cutaneous Angiosarcoma. See also: Primary Lymphedema and Cancer for a discussion and Lymphatic Cancers Secondary to Lymphedema.
Note: These cancers are rare and are usually associated with long term, untreated or improperply treated lymphedema. Typically occuring in stage three or four; quite rare in stage two.
14. Skin complications possible in stages 3 and 4 include papillomatosis; placques including “cobblestone” appearing placque; dermatofibroma; Skin Tags; Warts and Verrucas; Mycetoma skin fungus; dermatitis and many lymphedema patients report increased problems with psoriasis; eczema and shingles. I would suspect this may be due to again, the immunocompromised condition of the arm or leg afflicted with lymphedema.
15. Documented but rare complications in late stage also can include Lymphomatoid Papulosis; Cutis Marmorata; Acroangiodermatitis; Dermatolymphangioadenitis (DLA); Papillomatosis cutis carcinoides
16. Debilitating joint problems. This is caused by a combination of the excess fluid weight and the constant inflammatory process that accompanies lymphedema. As we have gotten older, many lymphedema patients are having total knee replacement, total hip replacement, or total shoulder replacement while others are experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome and are having carpal tunnel surgery or experiencing shoulder problems associated with lymphedema and must haverotator cuff surgery.