Lymphedema

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Lymphedema

Written by Amy Hall
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What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition resulting in swelling of one or more limbs or parts of the body. The normal function of the lymph system is to maintain the body's fluid balance. The lymph system includes several lymph nodes that act as filters to destroy toxins and viruses and plan an important role in the immune system.

When the lymph nodes are removed or damaged, the normal function of the lymphatic filtering system is disrupted, resulting in a buildup of tissue fluids beneath the surface of the skin. Lymphedema can result from congenital birth defects or malformation of the lymphatic system. It occurs most commonly as a result of breast cancer surgery, radiation therapy or from significant tumor involvement of the lymph system.

Treatments for lymphedema in the past have included the use of compressive pumps and garments and limb elevation. Results from these treatments have been disappointing, to say the least. New treatments include complete decongestive therapy, compression garments, manual therapy, and exercises that are part of a physical therapy regime.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms

There are many symptoms for lymphedema. The most obvious sign would be the swelling of one specific body part, such as your arm or your leg. Although lymphedema most commonly affects the arms and legs, it also can the abdomen, torso, head, neck, and the genitals. Some people begin to notice that their jewelry is becoming too tight, or that an article of clothing is looser or tighter on one side, such as a shirt or pants.

It is so important for you to seek medical attention as soon as you begin to notice symptoms. The sooner you see your doctor, the earlier you get diagnosed, and the quicker a course of treatment can begin. More than likely, the doctor will prescribe antibiotics if you are in the early stages of lymphedema.

If you are in the advanced stages of lymphedema, the doctor will fit you for compression garments and arrange physical therapy that includes manual lymph drainage and massage. Compression garments help reduce swelling and increase blood circulation in the affected area. Your doctor or therapist will take measurements of you to fit your properly for the right size compression garments.

The Importance of Manual Lymph Drainage

Manual lymph drainage is a special massage technique that stimulates lymph flow throughout the lymph vessels. Lymph nodes act as filters to destroy toxins in the body, but they can become swollen and engorged if they begin to store this toxic material. A MLD therapist will gently massage the affected areas and help to reduce swelling and remove toxic buildup of the lymph fluid.

We created About Lymphedema because there are over 250 million people worldwide that suffer from this debilitating disease. Not only are the physical effects painful and agonizing, but the mental and emotional effects are detrimental as well. We hope the information in this guide will help you if you suffer from this condition, as well as provide information for professionals who treat patients with lymphedema.


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