What is Hereditary Lymphedema?

Hereditary lymphedema is a disorder usually affecting the lymph vessels of the individual and is genetically inherited. Swelling caused on account of the pooling of the lymph on account of some trauma or obstruction in the lymph vessels is known as lymphedema. Hereditary lymphedema generally affects the legs and may be of three different types:

Milroy's Disease:

This is the first type of hereditary lymphedema caused as a result of inheriting a certain gene at birth. The condition is generally apparent in the legs, usually in one leg, but in some cases, it may be seen in both legs. Doctors diagnose the condition by studying the swapping present in the legs right from birth. Deeper enquiries may result in finding a family history of such type of swelling. In order to confirm the diagnosis, tests may be conducted. A dye is injected into the leg which is traced by a computer to find out where the blockages are present. Milroy's Disease is treated with decongestive therapy. Patients may experience complications like fibrosis in the limb tissues, lymphangitis or cellulitis. Initial treatment is absolutely essential to control the condition.

Lymphedema Praecox Meige (Hereditary Lymphedema Type II):

This condition of lymphedema shows up during the teenage years and is quite a common variety of primary lymphedema. The legs are affected in this case and the first signs of the condition are a swelling below the waist, red patches on the skin, inflammation and discomfort. Again, this hereditary lymphedema is diagnosed by observing the swelling and the family history confirming the verdict. Some other hints could have yellow nail syndrome or pulmonary hypertension. As with all other lymphedema treatments, decongestive therapy is the ideal choice here as well. Treatment must be started at the initial phase of the condition.

Lymphedema Tarda (Hereditary Lymphedema Type III) / Delayed Onset Lymphedema:

As the name suggests, this condition becomes only after the age of thirty five. Swelling may be present in either one or both the legs. Women are more at risk for this ailment than men. Very often, family history of a similar swapping is observed. Tests can also be connected to find the lymphatic blockages. The treatment is, again, decongestive therapy begon at the earliest possible opportunity. This type of lymphedema can not be cured, but with the right treatment, it can be managed better.

Genetic factors causing the malformation of the lymphatic system is the original source of hereditary lymphedema. Malformation would mean either few lymph vessels or they may be in excess. Both would cause a hindrance to the smooth working of the lymphatic system resulting in the pooling of fluids. Although lymphedema can not be cured, steps can be taken to keep it under control. Simple precautions like keeping the skin clean, wearing gloves while working, washing and drying the feet go a long way in keeping the infections at bay. Fungal infections, especially on the feet should be attended to immediately.