What Are the Basics of Lymphedema?

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What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema refers to the swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Sometimes both arms or both legs swell. It results from a blockage in the lymphatic system, and caused by the removal or damage to your lymph nodes. Presently, there is no cure for lymphedema, it can be managed and controlled in daily lives through some medications and some home remedies.

What causes lymphedema?

Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema means it occurs on its own, secondary lymphedema means it can be caused by other conditions or diseases. Causes for primary lymphedema:
  • Lymphedema tarda: It is a rare condition, and usually begins after 35.
  • Congenital lymphedema: It starts in infancy.
  • Lymphedema praecox: It occurs around puberty, or during pregnancy.
Causes for secondary lymphedema:
  • Cancer: Tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel may cause lymphedema.
  • Surgery: Removal or injury to lymph nodes or lymph vessels may lead to lymphedema.
  • Radiation treatment: It will cause scarring and inflammation of lymph nodes or lymph vessels.
  • Infections: Infected lymph nodes or lymph vessels will restrict the flow of lymph fluids.
Besides the causes listed above, other causes include rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, older age, obesity, etc. <!--nextpage-->

What are the symptoms of lymphedema?

Since lymphedema means the swelling in the arms or legs, so the symptoms are mostly presented on arms and legs, which are:
  • Aching and discomfort
  • Swollen arms and legs, and even swollen fingers and toes
  • Fibrosis
  • Recurring infections
  • Feeling of tightness and heaviness
  • Limited range of motion

How to treat lymphedema?

There is no cure for lymphedema, the followings are some suggestions for you to control and reduce the swelling and pain:
  • Compression garments: Apply lymphedema products to your affected areas.
  • Regular exercises: Do some light exercises such as carrying groceries to move your affected legs or arms.
  • Wrap the affected arms or legs with bandages: It may press the fluid to flow back toward the trunk of your body.
  • Massage: Manual lymph drainage, a special massage technique, may help the flow of lymph fluid out of your arm or leg.
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