Lymphedema results from lymphatic insufficiency leading to a progressive inflammatory process that ultimately manifests as discomfort, recurrent infections, and, at times, secondary malignancy. Collectively, these morbidities contribute to an overall poor quality of life. Although there have been recent advances in microsurgical interventions, a conservative palliative approach remains the mainstay of treatment for this disabling disease. The absence of a cure is due to an incomplete understanding of the pathophysiological changes that result in lymphedema. A histological hallmark of lymphedema is inflammatory cell infiltration and recent studies with animal models and clinical biopsy specimens have suggested that this response plays a key role in the pathology of the disease. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the ongoing research in and the current understanding of the inflammatory manifestations of lymphedema.
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