Lymphoedema is a long-term condition that occurs when the lymphatic system isn’t working properly. The lymphatic system, which consists of the lymph vessels and lymph nodes helps to remove excess fluid from the tissues. When the lymphatic system is blocked or stops working properly, the tissues will begin to collect excess fluid. This, in turn, will lead to swelling.
While Lymphoedema usually affects the legs and arm, experts have pointed out that it can also affect the genitals, head, and chest.
A recent survey shows that over 250 million people (worldwide) suffer from Lymphoedema. As can be seen from a report by the LERN (Lymphoedema and Education Research Network), over 10 million Americans are living with the condition.
There is presently no known cure for Lymphoedema, but there are treatments that can help limit its progression.
Types of Lymphoedema
There are two types of Lymphoedema- Secondary and hereditary lymphedema. Below is an overview of each of them.
Hereditary Lymphoedema, also known as primary lymphedema, is very rare. According to one study, the condition affects 1 in 100,000 persons.
There are two types of hereditary lymphedema- Meige disease and Milroy disease.
Meige disease. This is caused by a genetic mutation. It usually affects the larynx, legs, face, and arms.
Milroy disease. Affects the structures that make up the lymphatic system.
This is the most prevalent type of Lymphoedema. It is caused by radiation therapy and cancer. As can be seen in this survey, Secondary lymphedema affects 1 in 1000 Americans.
Symptoms and diagnosis of Lymphoedema
Below are some of the symptoms associated with lymphoedema.
- Severe swelling in the arm or leg (The swelling may cause a dull ache and heaviness in the affected area)
- Skin infection
- Presence of blisters on the skin
- Tingling sensation in the affected area
- Difficulty fitting into clothes and shoes
- Limited range of motion in the affected area
- Thickening of the skin
- Severe fatigue
Diagnosis of Lymphoedema
To determine if a patient has lymphoedema, a doctor will carry out a physical exam and ask about the medical history of the patient. If after the exam, they suspect that a patient has lymphoedema, they may carry out the following tests.
During this test, the doctor will inject a special dye into the groin area of a patient (the dye will travel to the lymphatic system). X-ray or MRI will then be used to track the dye as it travels. The imaging test will reveal any abnormalities in the region.
Here high-frequency waves will be used to create a clear picture of the affected area.
How to treat Lymphoedema
Below are a few things your doctor may recommend to reduce the symptoms associated with Lymphoedema.
Physicians may recommend this procedure if the condition is severe and other treatments didn’t help. A study conducted in 2015 shows that liposuction is an excellent treatment for lymphoedema, as it can reduce limb size and improve the quality of life of patients.
Studies have shown that physical therapy can help reduce the swelling, pain, and a few other symptoms of lymphoedema.
Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage Lymphoedema. Working out puts pressure on the lymph vessels (this forces fluid to flow into the vessels and reduces inflammation).
Health experts recommend simple range motion exercise and light repetitive exercise. To get the best result, you should aim to exercise 3 to 5 times weekly for 30minutes.
Here a special vest that is programmed to deflate and inflate automatically is used to stimulate the flow of lymphatic fluid.
How to manage Lymphoedema
Below are some alternative treatments for Lymphoedema.
Following a healthy diet can help you manage Lymphoedema. Dining on foods with anti-inflammatory properties like nuts, fish, tomatoes, cherries, strawberries, and oranges may help reduce the swelling and pain caused by Lymphoedema. Avoid foods that are high in sodium as they may make the swelling to be more severe.
Take deep breaths
According to the MSKCC, taking deep breaths can help increase the movement of lymph fluid.
- What happens if I don’t seek medical attention? Lymphoedema doesn’t usually improve on its own. So, if you don’t seek prompt medical attention, the condition will worsen and cause permanent damage to the tissues.
- What increases the risk of Lymphoedema? The following factors may make one more likely to develop lymphoedema.
- Old age
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!