The human body has not only the arteries and veins, and lymphatics, which circulates lymph fluid – lymph. This is a transparent or light yellow liquid coming out of the capillaries into the tissues. Lymph can be seen, for example, if you scratch the skin or peel the scab – colorless liquid appears. The lymphatic system has a lot of lymph nodes, which have different functions – filtration, protection and accumulation.

If in any place lymph flow slows or stops completely, the arm or leg on the side starts to accumulate tissue fluid. This condition is called lymphostasis or elephantiasis. The main symptom of the disease – swelling of the affected limb, which dramatically increases in volume, the skin thickens, coarse wrinkles are formed.


  • Swelling of the lower or upper extremities.
  • A feeling of pressure and weight in unhealthy limbs.
  • Molten thickened skin.
  • Deep transverse crease at the toes.
  • A significant increase in the affected limb at a late stage of the disease.


Lymphostasis is caused by lymphedema, which can be primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema – an inherited lymphedema or elephantiasis, which manifested only sporadically. Secondary – often local swelling, usually occur after frequent inflammation, chronic circulatory disorders and in patients with chronic diseases, due to which the lymph nodes are affected (eg, tuberculosis, cancer).

In addition, lymph circulation may fail after radiation therapy, and after the removal of important regional lymph nodes (usually due to cancer).


Doctors lift up the affected limb patient, previously tightly bandaged it with an elastic bandage. Therapeutic exercises are used. If these methods do not produce the desired result, doctors have to operate. Transplantation of lymph nodes is performed, trying to ensure the flow of lymph from the affected part of the body. In some cases, tissue is removed and then skin is transplanted. At hereditary lymphedema treatment tight elastic stockings and bandaging elastic bandage are used.

In the presence of elephantiasis patients can not afford any help.

If swelling of the arm or leg for a long time does not pass, you should consult your doctor.

Swelling can occur as a result of violation of the venous circulation, so, first of all, the doctor find out what kind of system is affected. If doctor suspects a lymphostasis, two methods of research are used. In one case, a solution of a special dye is injected into the skin. In the absence of lymphostasis small superficial lymph vessels are painted blue. Meanwhile, with lymphostasis, pigment under the skin like a “blue cloud”. However, the diagnosis is safer to use a modern nuclear medicine. With this method, radioactive substances are introduced into the lymphatic system. And then scintigraphy is performed (during which a flash of light appear in the decomposition of radioactive particles in the tissue, they are calculated using a special counter), which are due to accurate data on the lymph system.

There are three stages of lymphedema. In the first stage changes may still be reversible – there is a painless swelling of the hands or feet. In the second stage the changes are irreversible. The skin becomes rough, thick; there is a feeling of pressure and gravity. In the third stage of the disease or leg increases significantly and deformed.