Lymphedema complications: Cellulitis, Lymphangitis, elephantiasis and lymphangiosarcoma
There are three main complications of lymphedema:
1. Infection - The affected limb is vulnerable to infection, most notably cellulitis and lymphangitis. Any portal of infection can lead to cellulitis or lymphangitis, which may require intravenous antibiotics.
2. Elephantiasis - chronic lymphedema will ultimately lead to fibrosis of tissues, i.e. skin thickening, also known as elephantiasis. Secondary infections can cause ulcer formation and cellulitis.
3. Lymphangiosarcoma - longsanding lymphedema can lead to a rare soft tissue cancer originating in lymphatic tissue, known as lymphangiosarcoma.