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Lymphedema is a condition wherein protein-rich fluid, lymph, is accumulated in and not flowing properly. This results in swelling of body part(s). This can happen anywhere in the body, it could be in the arms, legs, torso, head, or in the genitals, however, it is mostly seen in the arms or legs.
Depending on the causes, lymphedema is categorized into two types:
Lymph vessels are missing or impaired and not able to transport lymph efficiently.
This type often runs in the family and is present at birth.
It is more common in women.
Swelling can appear in any time of life. It could be soon after birth, or at puberty, or even after the age of 35.
There are often some episodes when swelling starts to appear, such as cuts, insect bites, burns, sunburns, or hard exercises.
Swelling is often observed in the end of the limbs (hands and feet).
Lymph vessels are damaged, cut, or blocked and lymph cannot be transported any further and congestion occurs.
Swelling can appear anytime after the episodes. It could be a year later or it could be 30 years later.
Most common causes are cancer treatment with lymph nodes clearance (AKA lymph node removal or lymphectomy) and radiation therapy.
Repetitive cellulitis (inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissues), burns, sunburns, insect bites etc can also trigger secondary lymphedema.
After major surgery (knee replacement, hip replacement), around the surgical area becomes swollen, and this swelling could progress to lymphedema.
Swelling often starts near the roots of the limbs (near armpit or groin).
The symptoms of lymphedema (for both primary and secondary)
-heaviness, tightness or stiffness of the limb
-Clothing, jewelry, rings, or shoes becomes tighter
-Pain or numbness
-Swelling (reversible or irreversible depending on the progression)
-limitation of joint movement in the affected area
-hardening of the skin
Unfortunately, there is no cure for choronic lymphedema and If lymphedema is left untreated, it will progress even further.
But there is a help.
CDT is the most highly recommended treatment for lymphedema conditions and it is practiced in many countries.
If your family member has a primary lymphedema, consult your doctor whether your lymphatic flow is compromised. If so, start MLD treatment before symptoms appear as a prevention.
If you had cancer treatments, you are at a lifelong risk of lymphedema.
Consult your doctor for the treatment option of MLD even if you do not have visible swelling yet.
If you are already experiencing swelling, it is never too late!
Please contact me for a consultation and appointment.