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Understanding Fibrosis


Fibrosis due to radiation.
Lymph Notes

in the early stages of lymphedema, the tissues swell with protein-rich lymph that cannot drain properly. These tissues are soft to the touch and it causes condition is known as "pitting edema." Pressure on these tissues leave an indentation where the fluid was pushed aside. It takes time for this indentation to fill in again with fluid. If this condition is not treated at this stage, the stagnant lymph becomes fibrotic (hardened) within the affected tissues as the disease progresses to Stages 2 and 3.

  • As fibrosis develops, normal tissues are replaced by scar-like structures that create obstructions that make lymph drainage more difficult.
  • The amount of swelling is not an indicator as to the risk for developing fibrosis. Fibrosis can occur in tissues that are only slightly swollen.
  • Because this lymph cannot drain properly, the protein molecules accumulate in the tissues and cause more fibrosis (hardening) and a greater danger of infection.
  • Fibrosis can be felt as the tissues are no longer flexible or soft.
  • As these changes increase, so too do the risks of more swelling, tissue infections, and skin problems.


  • As the tissue hardens different massage techniques, which use more pressure, are usually recommended by the patient's lymphedema therapist.
  • The changes in this tissue should not be ignored. Instead the patient should consult a physician or lymphedema therapist to starte appropriate treatment.

@ Lymph Notes 2014. Permission to reprint this article for educational purposes has been provided by the LymphNotes website www.lymphnotes.com

Got a question or comment? Post in the 'How Lymphedema is Treated' forum.
Category: How Lymphedema is Treated Updated: 2014-07-17


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