Generalized Lymphatic Anomaly (GLA) | Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of generalized lymphatic anomaly?

Generalized lymphatic anomaly (GLA) may affect any area of the body except the brain, where there are no lymphatic vessels. It most commonly affects the lungs and surrounding cavities and tissues of the chest (mediastinum), but it can affect other organs such as the spleen, liver and bone. GLA can also be associated with problems of the lymphatic central collecting system. This is simply a “plumbing problem” of the lymphatic system which can cause lymphatic fluid to leak in the chest (pleural effusions) or heart (pericardial effusion), abdomen (ascites) or other organs.

There are no telltale signs of GLA. Diagnosis can be difficult because its symptoms can vary widely or be mild, leading to the disease going undetected into adulthood. In others, physicians may incorrectly identify the symptoms as asthma.

Symptoms of GLA in or around the lungs include:

  • chest pain
  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • chronic cough or coughing up blood
  • repeated respiratory infections

Symptoms of GLA in other areas of the body include:

  • pelvic or abdominal pain
  • swelling
  • fever
  • internal bleeding
  • skin lesions
  • bone pain

What causes generalized lymphatic anomaly?

The exact cause of GLA is not known. Experts believe GLA is a congenital disorder (present at birth). It affects both males and females and patients of all ages, even infants. Most cases of GLA are diagnosed in childhood, but GLA has been diagnosed in adults as well.

Researchers are studying whether a protein in the body — called vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR-3) — may be a factor. Researchers have found high levels of VEFGR-3 in tissues affected by GLA. Other biomarkers (proteins in the blood) are also being tested.