Genital Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the buildup of excess fluid somewhere in the body as the result of a blockage in the lymphatic system. When your lymph system can’t drain properly, that fluid buildup creates swelling and pain of the soft tissue in and near affected areas. Genital lymphedema is, naturally, when there is a drainage issue that affects the genitals and surrounding areas in both men and women.

Causes of Genital Lymphedema

Genital lymphedema—as well as all other forms of lymphedema—can be the result of natural or unnatural causes. Though it is possible to develop the condition as the result of an improperly developed lymphatic system, genital lymphedema is more commonly caused by secondary factors including:

  • Surgery, radiation or other cancer treatments that affect the lymph nodes in the genital region
  • Cancerous tumors growing near enough to lymph nodes or vessels to block lymph fluid flow
  • Infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or parasites
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Inflamed lymph nodes or nearby skin and blood vessels
  • Crohn’s disease

Symptoms of Genital Lymphedema

In men, symptoms will be present in the penis, scrotum or both. Women will see them in the labia and pelvis.

Several other symptoms can show up in both sexes:

  • Pain and swelling in the genitals, and possibly in the lower limbs
  • Infections
  • Difficult, painful urination
  • Thickened or hardened skin in the affected area
  • Compromised movement and sexual function

Diagnosing Genital Lymphedema

After a physical exam and a discussion with your doctor, your condition could be diagnosed after testing procedures such as:

  • MRI (magnetic resource imaging)
  • CT scan
  • Lymphoscintigraphy, which is a way to track the path of lymph fluids with a small injection and identify where the drainage issue is

Treatment of Genital Lymphedema

While there is no known cure for genital lymphedema, the urologic experts at Tampa General Hospital know exactly how to help patients get their condition under control with proper care.

Treatment options include:

  • Complex decongestive therapy, which can involve thoroughly cleaning the skin, draining the affected area through massage, wearing compression bandages or performing specific prescribed exercises
  • Surgery to remove affected tissue, which is only recommended in more severe, reoccurring cases