Lymphedema is a blockage of fluid produced by the lymphatic system. As part of your immune system, your lymph nodes are responsible for maintaining the proper level of fluids in your body. When the lymph nodes are damaged or removed, the typical drainage that the lymphatic system provides becomes impaired. Fluids that would be processed through and out of your body build up and cause persistent swelling. These fluids include proteins, fats, and white blood cells.

Lymphedema is an underdiagnosed condition, originally thought to primarily occur in post-cancer patients or developing from parasite infections such as filariasis in third-world countries. A better and recently improved understanding of the lymphatic and venous systems shows that the number one cause of lymphedema in the United States is chronic venous insufficiency. The venous and lymphatic systems work together intricately to return fluid to our heart. When the vein system is chronically overwhelmed with pressure, the lymphatic system will eventually be damaged. This leads to a medical condition called phlebolymphedema. 

“Justin Poole is a great provider who did everything he could to help my legs. Throughout my experience I felt that I was listened to and my questions and concerns were well addressed. I suffered with wounds on my legs for two years and after my treatments with the Vein and Vascular Center my wounds completely healed, my swelling decreased, and the overall well-being of my legs improved. I had received previous vein treatments elsewhere and my experience with this vein center was far better.”

—G. D.

Risk Factors

Some of the risk factors that can cause lymphedema include:

Venous Insufficiency

Failing valves in the veins of our legs lead to the pooling of blood in our feet and ankles. As pressure builds, fluid leaks out of the veins, and then it becomes the responsibility of the lymphatic system to return the blood to our heart. If there is enough pressure, or if this occurs long enough, the lymphatics become overwhelmed to the point that they dilate and damage. This leads to a permanent compromise of fluid returning out of the legs, back to the heart.


Obesity leads to increased pressure on our vascular system, higher states of inflammation in the body, and slower healing after injury, all of which can lead to irreversible damage of the lymphatic system.


The removal of lymph tissue, nodes, and vessels due to breast or other cancers is a very common cause. These nodes are often removed to monitor the spread of cancer.


Cancer itself can contribute to lymphedema symptoms, especially if a tumor is located very near a lymph node or lymph vessel. The removal of lymph tissue, nodes, and vessels due to breast or other cancers is a very common cause. These nodes are often removed to monitor the spread of cancer.


Infections that affect lymph nodes are often encountered in tropical regions and developing countries.

Primary lymphedema diseases

These include Milroy’s disease and Meige disease, which are conditions that affect the formation or function of the lymphatic system.

Old age

“I had a great experience at the Dixie Vein Center. Everyone was very helpful and considerate---they made my vein procedure easy and pleasant. I would highly recommend Dr. Jones and his outstanding staff-----everyone was great!!!!”

—Jayne F.

Common Symptoms

The most common symptoms that arise from lymphedema include:

  • Persistent swelling in the extremities, either localized or widespread, which may include swelling of fingers and toes
  • Aching and discomfort
  • Thickening of the skin
  • Recurring infections

Therapy and Treatment

Photo courtesy of Tactile Medical

Heart of Dixie Vein and Vascular Center specializes in treating and caring for patients who are experiencing lymphedema. While there is no cure for lymphedema, we can ease the pain through therapy options, including manual lymphatic drainage or pneumatic compression devices, that can help move the fluid away from the area of build-up and into working lymph nodes where the fluid will drain. We can also assist with persistent infections that can occur.

If you suffer from lymphedema in St. George, UT, or the surrounding areas, there is no need to continue living with discomfort and pain. Give us a call and make an appointment to see our friendly and knowledgeable doctors and staff. It would be our pleasure to help you find comfort.

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