In much of the world, the most common cause of lymphedema is infestation and damage by the parasitic disease filariasis. Filariasis is a tropical illness that produces lymphedema by infecting lymph nodes and blocking lymphatics, usually in the legs, and producing, in severe cases, elephantiasis, or grotesque swelling and skin changes of the legs and genitalia. In the United States, filariasis is not a risk. The most common causes are lymph node surgery or radiation for cancer treatment, primary (congenital) lymphedema and the swelling associated with a circulatory problem called chronic venous insufficiency, which occurs in some people with varicose veins.
When you have a sore throat and get swollen glands (lymph nodes) on the sides of your neck...the lymphatic system has been activated to fight the infection.
Another is the use of external pneumatic pumps to transfer lymphatic fluid. The problem here is that the minute the pump is stopped, fluid quickly flows back and reaccumulates in the limb. This is because the fluid is not directed out of the quadrant of the body where the lymphatic system is damaged. Some patients increase the pump pressure or duration of treatment, so that, in time, this treatment will damage the skin and underlying tissue.
By far the best of the new treatments is CDP, or complete decongestive physiotherapy, or CDT: complete (or complex) decongestive treatment.