Genital lymphedema is a buildup of fluid causing swelling in the soft tissues of the genital (crotch) area. A blockage or breakdown of the lymphatic system leads to leakage of lymph (fluid) into surrounding tissues. Standard treatment includes complex decongestive therapy, which uses a combination of drainage, compression bandages, pumps and exercise to ease the swelling.
Genital lymphedema is a buildup of fluid that causes swelling in the soft tissues of the genital area. Lymphedema is due to blockage or damage to the lymph system. This condition can affect both males and females.
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When the lymph system is operating normally, it circulates lymph throughout the body via a series of vessels and ducts. After that, it returns lymph to the bloodstream. A blockage or breakdown in this system in the genital area can lead to leakage of lymph into the surrounding soft tissue.
The standard first treatment approach is known as “complex decongestive therapy.” This kind of treatment is done with the following steps:
In some cases, despite decongestive therapy, the lymphedema progresses. If this happens, or if repeated bouts of infections or significant deformities or disfigurement with pain and decreased quality of life happen, surgery is the next option.
The goal of surgery is to reduce pain and restore function. Surgery involves removing all of the involved tissue and covering the area with healthy skin.
At the start of complex decongestive therapy, patients may receive daily treatments for as long as six weeks. Afterward, they can assume responsibility for performing the therapy for themselves, with follow-up visits to the doctor as recommended.
Damage to the lymph system cannot be repaired. However, proper treatment can help control the swelling of genital lymphedema and reduce the chance of complications. The following are general guidelines to keep genital lymphedema under control:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/30/2020.
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