People with Lymphedema
Manage Lymphedema to Live More Freely
Lymphedema is a highly under diagnosed condition that affects millions of people. Lymphedema results from the inability of the lymphatic system to perform one of its basic functions, the removal of water and protein from certain tissues of the body, resulting in swelling and the thickening of the skin. There are two types of lymphedema: secondary and primary.
The first obvious sign of lymphedema is swelling characterized by “pitting”, when the skin is depressed for a few seconds and the indentation does not immediately disappear. Other symptoms, which occur in your affected arm or leg, may include:
- Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg, including fingers or toes
- A feeling of heaviness or tightness
- Restricted range of motion
- Aching or discomfort
- Recurring infections
- Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
- Jewelry and clothing feeling tighter due to swelling
Causes of Secondary Lymphedema
Any condition or procedure that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels can cause secondary lymphedema, including:
Surgery. Removal of or injury to lymph nodes and lymph vessels may result in lymphedema. For example, lymph nodes may be removed to check for spread of breast cancer, and lymph nodes may be injured in surgery that involves blood vessels in your limbs.
Radiation treatment for cancer. Radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels.
Cancer. If cancer cells block lymphatic vessels, lymphedema may result. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could enlarge enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.
Infection. An infection of the lymph nodes or parasites can restrict the flow of lymph fluid. Infection-related lymphedema is most common in tropical and subtropical regions and is more likely to occur in developing countries.
Causes of Primary Lymphedema
Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body. Specific causes include:
Milroy’s disease (congenital lymphedema). This disorder begins in infancy and causes lymph nodes to form abnormally.
Meige’s disease (lymphedema praecox). This disorder often causes lymphedema around puberty or during pregnancy, though it can occur later, until age 35.
Late-onset lymphedema (lymphedema tarda). This occurs rarely and usually begins after age 35.
Compression Therapy for Lymphedema
Although there is no cure, lymphedema can be managed and wearing compression garments is one of the most important aspects of the management plan. Compression garments are designed to keep a continuous pressure on the swollen/affected area to assist the drainage of fluid and minimize swelling.
External compression provides a counter force to the working musculature, known as working pressure. Working pressure helps to prevent re-accumulation of fluids which were evacuated during intensive complete decongestive therapy (CDT) and conserve the results achieved during manual lymphatic drainage (MLD).
Contact your physician to see if compression therapy is a good way to treat your lymphedema and connect with a local Juzo dealer to find the best fit for your compression garments.