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The swelling of lymphedema may be so slight as to barely be noticed, or the swelling may be severe and disfiguring. Pronounced swelling can be accompanied by fatigue when moving the involved extremity, as well as embarrassment.
Over the long-term, the excess fluid and proteins in the tissues cause a chronic inflammation and scarring. The swelling is firm and does not retain an indentation (pit) when the skin is compressed by a finger (nonpitting edema). The skin in the involved area can become scaly or cracked, or may develop an orange-peel appearance (peau d'orange). Tenderness and soreness can accompany the swelling and skin changes. Loss of mobility may also occur.
Lymphedema also increases the susceptibility to infection in the affected area. Bacterial infections of the skin and of the subcutaneous tissues (the tissues underlying the skin) are the most common type of infections that occur in affected areas.
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