Late Stage Lymphedema
Lymphedema, a condition characterized by the build-up of fluid in the soft tissues, can get worse. In late stage lymphedema (also known as stage 3 lymphedema), the skin can become very dry and scaly. At this point, the affected limb or body region can get very large as a result of swelling. There may also be fluid leaking from the affected limb or body region and an increased risk for skin infections.
As lymphedema is getting worse, the more debilitating it becomes. The excessive swelling can make it difficult for one to move. Plus, there can also be the formation of excess skin projections, which can affect one's self-esteem.
When left unmanaged, lymphedema can progress and lead to more serious complications.
Complications of Lymphedema
Untreated lymphedema can cause further swelling of the affected site, resulting in discomfort and aching. Limb heaviness can lead to functional impairment and even to secondary musculoskeletal problems such as joint and back pain. These factors can have a significant impact on one's quality of life.
Aside from progression in the swelling, another common complication of lymphedema is infection. Fungal and bacterial infections are common in patients with lymphedema. The increased susceptibility to infection have something to do with the compromised immune function, which can result from lymphatic dysfunction.
Lymphangitis and cellulitis are the most common forms of infection among those with lymphedema. Some of their symptoms include fever, headache, severe vomiting, and pain and erythema (redness) in the lymphedematous area.
Although rare, lymphedema may lead to the development of cutaneous malignancy, a form of skin cancer.
How to Prevent Lymphedema from Getting Worse
Seeking early treatment is the key to preventing lymphedema from getting worse.
Light exercises which involve the movement of the affected area, use of high-quality compression garments, manual lymph drainage, pneumatic compression, and complete decongestive therapy are some of the ways to manage lymphedema and keep it from getting worse.
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