Secondary lymphedema is a condition where the lymphatic system is unable to function correctly due to issues with the lymph vessels. The lymphatic system consists of lymph vessels that collect lymph fluid. This fluid contains waste products, lipids, and proteins from the tissues of the body. The fluid flows to the lymph nodes to filter the waste products. The excess fluid should return to the bloodstream. However, with this condition, the vessels are blocked, and the lymph fluid is unable to move away from the tissues, causing swelling of the extremities. Secondary lymphedema is caused due to cancer surgery or radiation treatments. When you face such issues, it is important to learn how to avoid this condition.
A common cause of secondary lymphedema is breast cancer. Women who have breast cancer and undergo surgery, along with radiation treatment, can be subject to such lymph vessel issues. Any surgery that involves removing regional lymph nodes or lymph vessels can cause lymphedema. This can include vein stripping, peripheral vascular surgery, burn scar excision and lipectomy.
When the lymph nodes and lymph vessels are damaged, lymphedema can occur. Symptoms of the condition include warmth, itching, and redness in the arms or legs. Tingling, burning pains, fever, chills, decreased joint flexibility, pain and swelling in the affected area.
If you face cancer surgery or a radiation treatment, you can take steps to prevent lymphedema. Keep an arm or leg that is affected elevated above the heart whenever possible. Avoid wearing jewelry or constricting clothing so that you do not have a tightening of the affected area. Avoid using heat such as hot tubs, heating pad or steam bath. Stay hydrated. Avoid using the affected limb with heavy lifting or a forceful activity. Light activity is encouraged so that you can continue to use your limbs and keep joints limber.
When the arm is affected, do not carry a heavy purse. Keep the affected area clean and practice good hygiene. You should also avoid sunburns and insect bites to the affected area.
If you take these precautions and end up with lymphedema, there are treatment options. Use compression treatments such as elastic stockings or armbands to reduce swelling. You can also undergo manual compression via massage for lymphedema therapy treatment. Surgery is also an option. Consulting a physician or professional who specializes in lymphedema treatment will ensure that you receive the right therapy possible to ensure the symptoms of your condition are lessened.