Lymphedema is also known as lymphoedema and lymphatic edema. It refers to swelling which generally happens in one of your arms or legs, sometimes it happens in both arms or both legs. Well, there is no permanent cure for lymphoedema, but it can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of your affected limb. Today we are going to discuss this edema disease and how it is harmful to your health.
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What is Lymphoedema?
Lymphedema is kind of a disease which is commonly caused by the removal of or damage of your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. It is a solution from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling.
What are the Symptoms of lymphoedema?
There are a few symptoms of lymphedema:
1. Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg, including fingers or toes
2. A feeling of heaviness or tightness
3. Restricted range of motion
4. Aching or discomfort
5. Recurring infections
6. Hardening and thickening of the skin
What are the Causes of Lymphoedema?
Our lymphatic system is critical in keeping our body healthy and fit. It spread protein-rich lymph fluid throughout the body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste products. The lymphatic system carries fluid and some harmful substances through your lymph vessels, which take to lymph nodes. The wastes are then filtered out by lymphocytes infection-fighting cells that live in your lymph nodes and ultimately flushed from your body.
Lymphoedema can be either primary or secondary. Which means it can appear on its own (primary lymphedema), or it can be caused by another disease or condition (secondary lymphedema). According to the research, secondary lymphoedema is more common than primary lymphoedema.
The causes are divided into two categories primary and secondary:
¬ Primary Lymphoedema
1. Congenital Lymphoedema
This disorder begins in infancy and causes lymph nodes to form abnormally.
2. Lymphedema Praecox
This disorder frequently causes lymphedema around puberty or during pregnancy, though it can occur later, until age 30-35.
3. Late-onset Lymphoedema
This occurs rarely and usually begins after age 40.
¬ Secondary lymphoedema
Injury to lymph nodes and lymph vessels may result in lymphedema. As lymph nodes may be removed to check for spread of breast cancer, and lymph nodes may be injured in surgery which involves blood vessels in your limbs.
2. Radiation Treatment
Radiation causes scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels. If cancer cells block lymphatic vessels, lymphedema results. A tumor starts growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could enlarge enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.
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.
What are the Risk Factors of Lymphoedema?
Factors which increases the risk of developing lymphoedema after cancer, from cancer treatment or from other secondary causes:
1. Older age
2. Excess weight
3. Rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis
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What are the Complications of Lymphoedema?
Infections which can result from lymphoedema include a serious bacterial infection of the skin and an infection of the lymph vessels (lymphangitis). The smallest injury to your arm or leg can be an entry point for infection.
This form of soft tissue cancer can result from the most severe cases of untreated lymphedema. Feasible signs of lymphangiosarcoma include blue-red or purple marks on the skin.
What are the Preventions of Lymphoedema?
There are some preventions of lymphatic edema:
1. Protect Your Arm and Leg:
Avoid injury to your affected limb. Cuts, scrapes, and burns can prevent infection. Protect yourself from sharp objects. For example, shave with an electric razor, wear gloves when you garden or cook, and use a thimble when you sew. Keep in mind to avoid medical procedures, such as blood draws and vaccinations, in your affected limb.
2. Avoid Heat on Your Arm or Leg:
Never apply ice or heat, like – heating pad, to your affected limb. Also, protect your affected limb from extreme cold. Elevate your arm or leg.
3. Avoid Tight Clothing:
Avoid anything which could constrict your arm or leg, like – tight fitted clothing and, in the case of your arm, blood pressure cuffs.
4. Keep Your Arm or Leg Clean:
Make skin and nail care high priorities. Examine the skin on your arm or leg daily, watching for changes or breaks in your skin which could lead to infection.
How to Treat Lymphoedema?
There are some treatments of lymphatic edema:
Gentle exercises may promote lymph drainage and strengthen your affected limb.
An experienced professional can do light massage which helps to move fluid from areas of swelling to other areas where working lymph vessels carry it away.
3. Wrapping Your Arm and Leg
Wrapping your entire limb encourages lymph fluid to flow back toward the trunk of your body. The dressing should be tightest around your fingers or toes and loosen as it moves up your arm or leg.
4. Compression Garments
Long sleeves or stockings are made to compress your arm or leg. It encourages the flow of the lymph fluid out of your affected limb. Always keep in mind to wear a compression garment when exercising the affected limb.
5. Pneumatic Compression
A sleeve is worn stagy on your arm or leg which connects to a pump that intermittently inflates the sleeve, putting pressure on your limb and moving lymph fluid away from your fingers or toes.
In the above article, we have discussed lymphedema and its symptoms, causes, risk factors, prevention, and most important, the treatment. If you ever start feeling any of the above symptoms, you are supposed to consult a doctor as soon as possible because its a dangerous disease which makes you unhealthy slowly and steadily.
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