What Is Lymphedema?

Our lymphatic system is meant to help transport toxins and waste. The fluid is clear and made of white blood cells. If the lymph fluid cannot circulate properly due to a blockage, the result is lymphedema which is a chronic swelling of a limb due to an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the soft tissues.what is lymphedema.

what is lymphedema

As part of treatment for cancer, lymph nodes are often surgically removed. About 15–20 percent of breast cancer patients who undergo this surgery develop lymphedema. The swollen limb can become grossly distorted if not cared for properly.

Lymphedema Treatment Options

While there is no cure for lymphedema, there are several things a person with this condition can do to reduce the swelling and discomfort. You should know that without treatment, lymphedema may lead to infection, thickening of the skin, and restricted motion. A treatment program may include the following:

  • Compression garments/devices
  • Multilayer compression bandaging
  • Manual lymphatic drainage
  • Skincare education
  • Individualized exercise program

Depending on the severity of the swelling and the response to treatment, physical therapy can take a few days to a few weeks.

Are Leg Compression Wraps an Effective Treatment For Lymphedema?

Obviously, if lymphedema occurs in the foot or leg, this will affect mobility. The American Cancer Society says approximately 3-5 million people in the U.S. must learn how to live with lymphedema. Although leg compression wraps have been used in Europe for some time, it is a more recent innovation in the U.S. Bandaging and wrapping utilizes a four-layer wrap to work in conjunction with the pump and compression garment in controlling edema.

Toes and fingers are wrapped individually, then the hand or foot, followed by the forearm/calf, elbow/knee, upper arm, and thigh. Some patients can be taught to do this, but patients with limited dexterity may have difficulty and need help.

The bandages can be expensive, but luckily are reusable. Normally those who are able can wrap themselves at night and take off the wrap in the morning, followed by their compression garment. As recently as 1988 there were no doctors and or other professionals able to diagnose or treat patients with lymphedema. In some ways, lymphedema was an ignored disease. Today there is marked interest in lymphedema research. You can definitely live a normal and productive life providing you keep up with day-to-day self-care and maintain the affected area.

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  1. a picture can say a million words. the one above is perfect! i had never heard of Lymphedema but that photo told me so much. I’m sorry to hear there’s no cure.

  2. uh oh. i havent known one with this condition, but thanks for this additional learning. we must really be wary of what we eat to take care of our bodies. 🙂

  3. Aaaahhhh….this picture explained it all to me. I couldn’t make out what lymphedema is but now I know what it is. It’s so sad to hear this about breast-cancer patients.

  4. Subhashish Roy says:

    Very thorough and informative understanding on Lymphedema. Thank you for sharing. Really helpful.

  5. Dreaming Loud says:

    Lympedema looks so painful to have. Thanks for sharing knowledge. I hope there could be an affordable cure to this ailment.

  6. Oh I did not know this about lymphedema. That was informative!

  7. Wow! I didn’t know about lymphedema. That was informative!

  8. I had no idea that this could be caused by things done to help prevent the spread of cancer. Thank you so much for the information. An article this informative is going to be a big help to some people out there.

  9. I didn’t know much about lymphedema. Thanks for sharing this information!

  10. You always have incredibly informative blog posts. I heard my mom talk about this recently. She actually started dieting because she has suffered some health issues. She’s in her 60’s. I’m very proud of her and the transformation she has made. Great blog post.

  11. I’ve seen people with this condition. I heard that a vegan diet can help. Or avoiding red meat.

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