There are four stages of lymphoedema
Stage 0 : (latent or subclinical )
In this stage the transport capacity of the lymphatic system is reduced, but the remaining lymph vessels are sufficient to manage the flow of lymph, and swelling is not visibly present.
Stage 1 : (spontaneously reversible):
Tissue is still at the “pitting” stage, which means that when pressed by fingertips, the area indents and holds the indentation. Usually, upon waking in the morning, the limb(s) or affected area is normal or almost normal size.
Stage 2 : (spontaneously irreversible):
The tissue now has a spongy consistency and is “non-pitting,” meaning that when pressed by fingertips, the tissue bounces back without any indentation forming). Fibrosis found in Stage 2 lymphedema marks the beginning of the hardening of the limbs and increasing size.
Stage 3 : (lymphostatic elephantiasis):
At this stage the swelling is irreversible and usually the limb(s) is/are very large. The tissue is hard (fibrotic) and unresponsive; some patients consider undergoing reconstructive surgery called “debulking” at this stage.