What is Lymphedema

Knowing what is lymphedema allows you to make appropriate choices related to your health. Lymphedema is a skin condition that results from the accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissue. It is caused by the blockage in the lymphatic system, a vital system in the body that belongs to the immune and circulatory system.

There are two types of lymphedema. These are the primary and the secondary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is usually associated with congenital or genetic problems. It can be found in people born with abnormalities in the lymphatic system. Primary lymphedema can affect any part of the body including the limbs.

Secondary lymphedema, on the other hand, develops as a result of damage to the lymphatic system. It can be due to surgery, radiation, trauma, or infection. It’s common in those who have undergone cancer treatment and may develop months or years after it.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The most distinct characteristic of lymphedema is swelling. Unlike edema, the swelling involved in lymphedema is nonpitting. It can affect the limbs, digits, and even the trunk.

The swelling usually goes with other complaints including feeling of “heaviness”, tight sensation, and limitation in movement. The discomfort brought by these symptoms may affect one’s way of living especially that it can limit one’s ambulation and way of doing things.

What Can Be Done

Learning what is lymphedema is not enough as it’s equally important to know how to deal with the condition. The following are some of the ways to deal with lymphedema:

  1. Wearing of compression garments
    The swelling in lymphedema is caused by obstruction in the flow of the lymphatic fluid. Wearing compression garments helps as it promotes blood and lymph flow.

    Comfort and quality should be among the factors to consider when choosing therapeutic garments. Bioflect Therapy Garments has a wide range of lymphedema products. The company makes use of the latest FIR technology to promote healing of the affected site.

  2. Elevate the affected site
    Elevating the affected site such as the arm or the leg helps in relieving the swelling as it drains lymphatic fluid from the limb. Elevation should be done in a comfortable position and with support. Elevating the affected site without support will only worsen the swelling.

  3. Move the affected site
    Gentle exercises can help relieve the symptoms of lymphedema especially the swelling. Light movement promotes circulation of the lymph. It improves blood flow to the muscles used and increases the amount of lymphatic fluid on the area.

  4. Massage There is a special type of massage technique that benefits those with lymphedema. It’s called manual lymph drainage. It’s a gentle massage that promotes drainage of the lymph. When considering this method for lymphedema relief, you should look for someone who has been specifically trained to do this special type of massage technique.

    Massage though is contraindicated for those who have congestive heart failure, skin infection, or blood clots.

  5. Intermittent pneumatic compression Intermittent pneumatic compression is a therapeutic technique that involves wearing of a sleeve over the affected site. This sleeve is connected to a pump that intermittently inflates it. The inflation creates pressure on the affected limb, stimulating the flow of the lymphatic fluid away from the fingers and toes.

  6. Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) Also known as complex decongestive therapy, CDT is considered as the gold standard of treatment for those whose lymphedema have went beyond stage 1. CDT is a combination of different  treatment modalities including bandaging, use of compression garments, exercise, manual lymphatic drainage, and self-care.

Educating yourself on what is lymphedema is a step closer towards recovery. Know that whatever causes your lymphedema or symptoms you have, there is something you can do to improve your condition.

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