Lymphedema has three stages, according to the National Cancer Institute. In the first stage, the patient's arm or leg feels heavy and is swollen. When the flesh is pressed, a dent is left behind. Stage I lymphedema may go away on its own.
In stage II lymphedema, the arm or leg is swollen and has a spongy feel, says the National Cancer Institute. At this stage, tissue fibrosis may develop. In that case, the limb becomes hard, and pressing on it doesn't leave a dent.
In stage III, the swollen limb is quite large, states the National Cancer Institute. The skin of the limb is dry and scaly and may seep fluid, says the National Lymphedema Network. This stage is also called lymphostatic elephantiasis.