Lymphedema is a condition where swelling occurs in one or more extremity of the body due to flow issues of the lymphatic system. Lymph vessels of the lymphatic system work to process lymph fluid. When the vessels are restricted, the flow stops which results in swelling of an arm or leg or both extremities. Lymphedema can take place in the body due to an anatomical abnormality of the lymph vessels, which is a rare and inherited condition, or due to damage or obstruction of the lymph vessels, known as secondary lymphedema. Patients with secondary lymphedema usually are diagnosed with the condition due to having breast cancer and undergoing radiation treatments.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
When lymphedema occurs in the body, you will experience swelling on one side of the body, in your arm, leg or both extremities. You may feel a warm sensation in the affected area as well as redness or itching. You may also feel a burning or tingling pain. You can experience a decrease in the ability to flex your joints as well as an aching or pain in the area. A skin rash can also occur.
If you feel that you suffer from lymphedema, a diagnosis is needed. A physician will be able to review your medical history and use a physical examination to determine the cause of limb swelling. Other issues can cause edema such as kidney failure, blood clots or congestive heart failure. A medical history of surgery will be reviewed to determine if the lymph nodes were affected and are the cause of the lymphedema.
Tests can also be used to determine the cause of the swelling. A CT scan or MRI can be used to define the lymph nodes and identify if there are any abnormalities or tumors in the body. A lymphoscintigraphy test will involve injecting a tracer dye into the lymph vessels. The flow of the fluid is then followed by imaging technology. This can help the physician see if any flow issues are present involving the lymphatic system.
Once diagnosed, treatment can begin. There is no cure for the condition but swelling can be treated to reduce the effect. Such treatments can include using elastic sleeves on the arms or stockings on legs affected from the condition. The gradual compression can ease the swelling of the body.
Manual compression via massage techniques can also assist in the flow of the lymphatic system. Manual lymph drainage is what takes place with massage techniques by a professional who knows how to treat lymphedema. With this lymphedema therapy technique, the swelling can be reduced in some patients.
If you feel that you have lymphedema, schedule an appointment with a physician. After being properly diagnosed, you can begin treatment to help reduce the swelling.