The term “edema” refers to the accumulation of large amount of fluid which causes swelling. This condition can happen in any part of the body but is more particular in feet, legs and ankles. Lymphedema is a condition caused by fluid accumulation in the lymphatic system. Any blockage in the lymphatic system can prevent the lymph fluid from draining which leads to storage of large volume of lymphatic fluid. This condition happens during the course of cancer treatment which damages the lymph nodes from functioning well. Lymphatic edema can be prevented and managed by taking extra care of your feet and legs.
There may be considerable swelling on the legs or arms and sometimes on both the legs and arms. It may affect your fingers or even toes making them swollen. The affected leg or arm may become heavy or tight. It may be difficult for you to move the arm or leg due to pain. It causes enough pain and discomfort on the affected part.
This condition can cause repeated infections on the extremities due to accumulation of fluid inside. The skin surrounding the arm or leg would become hard and thick forming scaly patches. The symptoms may range from mild to severe depending on the extent of fluid accumulation and there may be marked difference in movement of arms or legs from one person to another.
Functions of Lymphatic System :
Our body stays healthy only because of normal functioning of lymphatic system. The main function of this system is to circulate proteins and other nutrients throughout the body. It also does the work of collection of virus, bacteria and other waste materials from the body which is then filtered out through lymphocytes. Actually the waste products and other bacteria live in the lymph nodes before getting expelled.
Lymphedema can be caused by the improper functioning of lymph vessels or it can occur due to underlying disease. Many times certain condition or disease causes lymphedema.
People undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy for cancer has high risk of getting their lymph nodes enlarged. It causes inflammation of the lymph nodes which would eventually restrict the movement of lymphatic fluid.
Persons who have undergone surgery on lymph nodes may develop lymphedema eventually. Many times, corrective surgery for cancer will involve the process of removal of lymph nodes from one part of the body for replacing it on the affected part. In that case, the lymph nodes become enlarged due to fluid accumulation.
Cancer is one of the major factors that cause lymphedema. Any tumor or extra growth on the lymphatic system blocks the normal function of lymph vessels causing accumulation of fluid. Bacterial or viral infection can restrict the free flow of lymph fluid causing swelling and inflammation.
Lymphedema can be caused by hereditary condition due to the abnormal development of lymph vessels. For instance congenital lymphedema caused by Milroy’s disease is an inherited condition affecting the child by birth. Similarly Meige’s disease is also inherited disorder which begins in adolescent age causing swelling of arms and limbs. If left untreated, the infected arm or leg may become serious leading to amputation.
The doctor will look for symptoms of swelling or inflammation of arms or legs or both indicating infection on the lymph nodes. Your doctor will examine the lymph nodes if you have undergone recent treatment for cancer or surgery that involves lymph nodes. He may use testing procedures like CT scan, MRI scan or Doppler ultrasound for examining the position of arms or legs and also for checking the extent of blockage.
Pictures of Lymphedema :
Images, Pics, Pictures and Photos of Lymphedema
There is no proper treatment for lymphedema but you can always take efforts for managing the symptoms and to control pain. Doing exercises like gentle stretching and relaxation can improve circulation.You can get help from physiotherapist who will teach you the right techniques. The affected arm or leg should be wrapped to encourage the lymph fluid to get discharged into the body.
Take care while bandaging the arm or leg so that you are not making it tight. The wrap should be loose enough to facilitate free movement on the affected leg or arm. You can consult a therapist to know how to do right bandaging on the legs or arms.
Massaging gently on the affected part will improve fluid circulation. Apply suitable strokes on the leg so that the accumulated fluid gently moves into the body for draining. However this technique should not be done by people who have cancer or skin infection.
Wearing pneumatic compression or sleeve on the affected leg will give relief from pain or discomfort. Connect a pump to the sleeve that would inflate it continuously. The built up pressure on the sleeve will gently move the accumulated fluid into the body thereby reducing swelling. Alternatively you can use compression garments or stockings for applying pressure on the legs or arms.
People who have other disorders like diabetes, hypertension or heart problems will have to use combined therapy mentioned above for getting effective results. Surgery is the last option for draining the liquid inside the lymph nodes, if none of the above method responds.