What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the abnormal swelling of the tissues with stagnant, protein-rich lymph. The primary reason for such condition occurs when the lymphatic system has either failed to develop properly or has been damaged.
Lymphedema system is a part of the circulatory system. It is responsible to provide disease fighting cells for the immune system and gathers bacteria and excess proteins from tissues and returns them to the bloodstreams.
What causes Lymphedema?
It occurs when the nodes and lymphatic vessels are damaged or taken out during surgery. It can be caused as with the following reason:
- Radiation used during the treatment
- Trauma or injury
- Malignant tumour
When the lymphatic system is damaged or not working, lymph fluid cannot be drain normally from the area. The area becomes swollen and heavy with fluid.
Why Does Lymphedema occur in breast cancer patients?
Lymphedema occurs in breast cancer patients because the surgeons usually remove groups of lymph nodes and vessels from the underarm. Removing lymph vessels and nodes alters the way fluid drains in the body. In breast cancer patients, the lymphatic system struggles to remove fluid from the arm and breasts.
Symptoms of Lymphedema?
Symptoms of lymphedema are a soft fluid swelling in areas of the body, especially arms or legs. Affected area may become inflamed and during the course of time may experience a break down of the skin.
Lymphedema is full of protein rich fluid. Unfortunately, lymphedema cannot be cured, but it can be controlled.
How can lymphedema be treated?
When a decision is made to have treatment, the goals of treatment need to be defined. Short-term goals are relief of pain and reduction of swelling. Patients with lymphedema may consider lifelong treatment strategies such as consistent pumping and massage to achieve long-term benefits.
No one is better equipped to treat lymphedema. However, there are treatment options which can help control the lymphedema:
- Manual lymphatic drainage
- Medical compression bandages and garments
- Skin care
- Pneumatic pump therapy
Can lymphedema be prevented?
Lymphedemacannot be completely prevented. If symptoms are found and treated early, it can be diagnose and treated. The only risks that can be controlled are infection and injuries to the arm. If you have questions or concerns about your surgery and lymphedema, discussM your options with your doctor.
Following steps may be taken in order to prevent lymphedema:
- Never allow an injection or blood to be drawn in the affected arms or legs
- Have your blood pressure checked in the unaffected arm
- Do not wear tight jewelry or elastic bands around affected fingers or arms
- Wear gloves while housework, gardening or any other type of work that could result in even a injury
- Exercise is a better option, but consult your doctor
- Avoid any vigorous movements against resistance with the affected arm.
With the help of the above mention steps you can prevent or help your treatment against lymphedema.
People with lymphedema or are at the risk of developing lymphedema need to avoid getting any infection. They need to avoid infection because infection causes the body to make extra lymph fluid. Extra lymph fluid may cause swelling.