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Lymphedema (cont.)

Outlook

As described above, lymphedema cannot be cured, although treatments are available to help manage the condition and lessen the severity of symptoms. Because the immune system is weakened in areas affected by lymphedema, bacterial infections often develop in the skin or in the tissues beneath the skin. These infections must be treated promptly to avoid spreading to other parts of the body.

A rare cancer of the lymphatic vessels known as lymphangiosarcoma can develop as a result of long-term lymphedema. Individuals who have had long-term lymphedema for 10 years or more have about a 10% risk of developing this cancer. Lymphangiosarcoma appears as a reddish or purplish lump on the skin and spreads rapidly. Treatment is amputation of the affected limb.

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