Lymphedema refers to swelling occurring in one or more of your arms or legs. It results from a blockage in your lymphatic system preventing lymph fluid from draining. Over time this fluid builds up and leads to swelling. The swelling starts out mild and is relieved by elevating the limb. As the condition progresses the fluid becomes more and more dense and is no longer removed with elevation. Without treatment the condition will continue to worsen, making the arm or leg much larger. Skin changes Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment.
There’s no cure for lymphedema. But it can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of your affected limb.
Lymphedema signs and symptoms, which occur in your affected arm or leg, include:
- Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg, including fingers or toes
- A feeling of heaviness or tightness
- Restricted range of motion
- Aching or discomfort
- Recurring infections
- Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)
- clothes become tight or unable to fit clothes on the limb
The swelling caused by lymphedema ranges from mild, hardly noticeable changes in the size of your arm or leg to extreme changes that make the limb hard to use. Lymphedema caused by cancer treatment may not occur until months or years after treatment.
Your lymphatic system is crucial to keeping your body healthy. It circulates protein-rich lymph fluid throughout your body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste products. Your lymphatic system carries this fluid and harmful substances through your lymph vessels, which lead to lymph nodes. The wastes are then filtered out by lymphocytes — infection-fighting cells that live in your lymph nodes — and ultimately flushed from your body.
Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid, usually from an arm or leg. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. This means it can occur on its own (primary lymphedema) or it can be caused by another disease or condition (secondary lymphedema). Secondary lymphedema is far more common than primary lymphedema.
Causes of secondary lymphedema
Any condition or procedure that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels can cause lymphedema. Causes include:
- Surgery. Removal of or injury to lymph nodes and lymph vessels may result in lymphedema. For example, lymph nodes may be removed to check for spread of breast cancer, and lymph nodes may be injured in surgery that involves blood vessels in your limbs.
- Radiation treatment for cancer. Radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels.
- Cancer. If cancer cells block lymphatic vessels, lymphedema may result. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could enlarge enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.
- Infection. An infection of the lymph nodes or parasites can restrict the flow of lymph fluid. Infection-related lymphedema is most common in tropical and subtropical regions and is more likely to occur in developing countries.
Total Body Therapy & Wellness treats Lymphedema with CDT!
What is CDT?
CDT is Complete Decongestive Therapy. It can only be performed by a highly trained physical therapist. It combines 5 phases:
- Skin Care
- Manual Lymph Drainage
- Light Exercise
- Patient Education
**CDT is non-invasive. If followed correctly there should be no adverse reactions. It is proven to reduce the size, girth and fibrous tissue of your lymphedema area**
Lymphedema makes the skin very sensitive and prone to infection. Folds in the skin are excellent breeding grounds for bacteria. Good hygiene and daily cleansing are important to prevent cuts, abrasions and infections. A low pH lotion is used to further prevent bacterial infections.
Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)
MLD is very relaxing and similar to a massage (Yay!) The purpose of MLD is to channel the lymph fluid away from the region of lymph nodes that do not work and towards the working nodes. The intact lymph nodes will pump the fluid and proteins away and clear the affected area. This lasts about 45 minutes.
This is important to maintain the gains achieved by MLD for lymphedema. Initially the fluid volume reduction is so great that removable lymphedema bandages are applied and reapplied daily. When the volume of lymphedema reduction slows and reaches a plateau custom garments are fitted and ordered. Since Lymphedema is a lifelong condition, the lymphedema garments will be a lifelong intervention to prevent lymph fluid re-accumulating.
Exercise stimulates the lymph system to pump fluid. Too much activity and exertion becomes taxing on the lymph system. A very light exercise routine will be prescribed to achieve the correct balance of exercise, range of motion and rest for the lymph area.
As in everything, the more you know about your condition the better you will manage it. Each lymphedema patient will become well versed in lymphedema and know how to manage their condition at home.
ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS to CDT
All other treatments have been shown to be INFERIOR and LESS EFFECTIVE to CDT
Pneumatic compression Pump
- This is a sleeve placed around the leg or arm. Air is pumped into the sleeve and squeezes the fluid out of the limb.
- This does not remove the proteins (hard, fibrous portion of lymphedema). It only removes the water.
- It leaves behind very hard and fibrous tissue, which is difficult to remove.
- Pushes the water around but does not remove it from the body.
- The result is a fibrous “cuff” where the sleeve ends
- This removes tissue and lymph nodes in the area. It improves girth initially but the lymphedema will eventually return.
- Very high incidence of infection.
For more information, Contact Us TODAY at Total Body Therapy & Wellness in Lillington, NC.