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Lymphedema - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & More

 

Lymphedema refers to tissue edema caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in the body.

The Mayo Clinic defines lymphedema as "a condition that causes abnormal enlargement of the lymph nodes, body tissues, and extremities."

Symptoms may include swelling, pain and edema. Lymphedema can affect any area of the body but is most common in the arms and legs. In more severe cases, it may also cause swelling around your heart or lungs. 

lymph edema,edema,swelling in feet,edema in legs,foot swelling

Symptoms:

1. Swelling

2. Pain

3. Skin color changes, including a pale or bluish tint to the skin

4. Distorted body image or "lumpy" appearance of the affected limb (edema is usually symmetrical)

5. A feeling of tightness in the affected limb that comes and goes

6. The affected limb may feel warmer than unaffected limbs and surrounding tissues; when you touch it, it feels clammy or cool to the touch

7. Reduced strength, mobility or sensation in the affected limb as compared with the unaffected parts of your body

8. Weight gain around your waist, hips, thighs and buttocks even if you don't eat more or exercise less.

Symptoms of lymphedema may vary depending on where it is located in your body.

Lymphedema of the arms and legs may cause swelling that increases with exercise and decreases with rest. The skin of affected areas may be pale or bluish, particularly in darker-skinned individuals.

In contrast, some types of arm and leg lymphedema can cause the affected area to feel hard, hot and stiff when you touch it. Another rare form of arm or leg lymphedema can cause redness around the affected area, along with sensitivity to heat and cold.

Lymphedema can affect any area of the body but is most common in the arms and legs. In more severe cases, it may also cause swelling around your heart or lungs.

When to see a doctor?

You should check your lymphedema symptoms if they worsen.

Skin changes and disfiguring swelling may cause emotional problems. If you feel self-conscious about the way you look, talk to your doctor.

If you have the condition, you should check your symptoms regularly.

Causes of Lymphedema:

The exact cause of lymphedema is not known in most cases. When it's related to cancer treatment or surgery, it is called secondary lymphedema . In these cases, something else has caused the problem.

In some people with idiopathic (unknown) primary lymphedema , the condition develops for no apparent reason. In others, there's a family history of primary lymphedema .

Lymphedema can be associated with other conditions, including Henoch-Schönlein purpura, which causes swelling of the skin and joints.

There are also some genetic disorders that can cause lymphedema. These include Marfan syndrome and pseudoxanthoma elasticum.

Primary or idiopathic lymphedema is known as a very complex and difficult to treat condition that is also known as Lymphatic dysfunction . It can present at any age in multiple areas including face, hands or feet but predominantly affects the legs of women.

The cause of lymphedema and the way to  improve lymphedema can be a difficult subject to discuss with your doctor.

Lymphedema is a complex symptom and often confuses people with different symptoms from the same condition, many of which may have nothing at all to do with the condition.

For example; some people actually have lymphedema who have swollen lymph nodes due to cancer, or lymphoma. They usually present with red or purple skin on the affected area, pain and swelling on that part of the body, but other than that they're quite healthy and do not experience any other symptoms including painful edema.

The other tricky aspect of lymphedema is that symptoms, even those caused by lymphedema, may be difficult to relate to lymphedema. For example; if you have swollen lymph nodes on the bottom of your foot and it's really painful, you may get a doctor who prescribes you antibiotics for an infection. It's all in your head...

You need also to understand that getting blood tests every six months to monitor your overall health can be very beneficial in real terms, but in terms of treatments this is rarely helpful and in fact often results in extra costs and unnecessary added stress when you're already suffering.

Diagnosis of lymphedema:

A complete medical history, physical exam and laboratory tests are all important when it comes to locating the cause of your disability.

If a surgeon performs surgery on the affected limb, biopsy tissue may be taken for testing. A tissue sample is also a good idea if you have any concerns regarding lymphedema or your cancer treatment.

Treatment for lymphedema: 

There is no proven cure for lymphedema. However, there are several approved treatments available to decrease the swelling and improve lymphatic circulation in the body.

Some of these treatments are:

1. Manual Lymphatic Drainage Therapy (MLD) : MLD gently stimulates the lymphatic system, increasing the flow of lymph fluid. It can be either performed by a physical therapist or massage therapist or under your doctor's supervision.  It is also possible for you to learn to do it yourself at home.  

2. Elastic Compression Stockings : Elastic compression stockings are available over-the-counter or prescription and are worn at all times except when bathing or showering. They fit tightly around the skin and help reduce swelling and improve skin texture by keeping swelling from moving throughout the body. They are also effective when used with compression bandages.  

3. Botox / Abobotulinumtoxin A: The injectable drug is used to block the nerve that signals release of the muscle fiber's elastic fiber, which tightens ligaments and other tissues. The tightens effected muscles and tendons, decrease swelling by decreasing edema formation in the skin and within the tissue structures.  

4. Surgery: When there is an underlying or severe lymphedema, it's sometimes necessary to repair damaged lymphatic vessels due to cancer or a previous operation because surgery can help to improve circulation in your body.

5. Dialysis:If you are not able to treat lymphedema with other methods, a doctor may recommend that you undergo dialysis , a treatment in which your blood is passed through a machine, to remove excess fluid and waste.  Adaptive clothing: Lymphedema can cause extreme sensitivity and pain in the affected area. Clothing designed to help with lymphedema should be soft, loose-fitting and breathable. They include elastic supports, liners between the skin and clothing, or garments that have built-in compression sleeves.

5. Diet Changes: If your lymphedema is caused by weight problems or high body fat levels, it's very important for you to follow proper diet routines . You should also see a dietitian if you need help losing weight.

What's Next?

Lymphedema is a very complex condition and there is no standard or uniform treatment for lymphedema. You need to be your best advocate when it comes to getting the help you need.  

Understand that your body is delicate and the way to treat lymphedema will often involve the work of a team of professionals.  When you are considering what steps to take, get informed first and then ask questions so that you can make an informed decision on your own where you'll be able to move forward in an effective manner when it's needed.

There is hope, but don't lose focus of your needs as they may differ from person to person and require special attention.

prevention:

1. This is the key to all healing, Prevention is far better than a cure and cost effective! Like Lymphedema is not Cancer, yet here we are , fighting Cancer every day with no cure and all the different types of it.

Prevention of Disease and Harmful Cancers can be easily prevented by getting educated on how to keep your body clean and cared for properly.

Clean your house, yourself , your clothes once in a while and most importantly, your inside!  ( not so easy I know) 

This can be done with proper diet , exercise ( good diet first then exercise)and drinking plenty of water.

Get more information on Lymphedema and learn how you can prevent it ( most important)

2. Diet:   Get your diet right, by educating yourself on the importance of vegetables, fruits and the fats you need to stay healthy. Like I mentioned before about Lymphedema, if you are not able to treat lymphedema with other methods , a doctor may recommend that you undergo dialysis .

Remember that it's better to prevent your body from getting sick then treating it when it does become sick. 

3. Exercise:   Get regular exercise and make sure you get your muscle tone back by working out.

4. Keep yourself clean and free from viruses . Lymphedema is very much like Cancer. 

It is basically a chronic condition which means it stays with you for life.  So, the best thing to do is to prevent it while you are still healthy enough to do so.  ( simple yes)

5. Don't smoke, drink or over-consume alcohol. 

6. Don't use the Internet for more then 2 hours a day. Lymphedema is not Cancer, however here we are fighting it every day with no cure or treatment so it is important to know how to tackle different diseases and ailments in your everyday life that you may come across online or through TV/Radio and don't think twice. 

There is absolutely nothing wrong with going on Internet for 2 hours a day but watching TV programs and listening to music that you can easily get from internet are not good for your body in general .

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