WHAT IS LYMPHEDEMA?
Lymphadema is the abnormal swelling of the arms, legs, breast, abdomen, neck, or head, due to a damaged lymphatic system or accumulation of lymph fluid (protein and water) in the tissue spaces as a result of obstruction of venous and/or lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes. Lymphadema can occur immediately, within a few months, or even over a period of years. Lymphadema most often develops in one arm or leg, but may be present in both arms and both legs. It may also occur in the hands or feet, and even in the chest, back, neck, face, abdomen, and genitals.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES AND CAUSES OF LYMPHEDEMA?
There are two types of Lymphadema : PRIMARY and SECONDARY.
Primary lymphadema is caused by an abnormality of the lymphatic system that can be present at birth or occur later in life, whereas, Secondary lymphadema is caused by infection, injury, radiation, surgery, or trauma. This type of lymphadema may be a side effect of breast cancer treatment that results in chronic and debilitating arm/hand swelling. It may occur after removal of lymph nodes. It may also be caused by paralysis or venous insufficiency.
WHY SHOULD LYMPHEDEMA BE TREATED?
The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system along with veins and arteries. It collects fluid from tissues in all parts of the body, and returns the fluid to the blood centrally. It removes impurities (including bacteria and cancer cells) from the circulatory system and produces disease fighting cells (lymphocytes) for the immune system.
lymphadema, if untreated, creates an environment of stagnant fluid causing lymph channels to increase in size and number. It reduces oxygen tension throughout the transport system, interferes with wound healing, and provides an environment for bacteria, increasing the potential for infection. If the condition of swelling and inflammation persists, the tissue eventually thickens and becomes hardened, resulting in decreased active motion, which can intensify the problem.
ARE THERE LYMPHEDEMA TREATMENT PRECAUTIONS?
It is not recommended to have other forms of massage therapy during treatment because it may alter the direction of the flow of the lymph, causing the fluid to move to additional areas. (This includes restraining from deep tissue massage, reflexology, rolfing, Shiatsu, and Swedish massage.)
WHAT LYMPHEDEMA TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
Initially an evaluation will be performed by a trained therapist to determine the proper treatment required. All patients are actively involved in choosing the treatment options that best fit into their lifestyles.
WHAT ARE SOME TIPS FOR PREVENTING LYMPHEDEMA?
CAN LYMPHEDEMA BE CURED?
With early intervention and proper treatment, the condition can be controlled, allowing the individual to lead a full and normal life. However, this is frequently a persistent condition. Therefore, techniques for self-management and maintenance of swelling reduction and other side effects are essential factors in control.