Also known as lymphatic edema, lymphedema is a condition that is more common than many people think. Certain forms of this condition affect as many as one in every 6,000 people. The good news is that there are a number of ways to treat this condition and provide some relief to those who live with lymphatic edema on a daily basis. Here are some things you should know about the swelling, the impact it can have on your life, and what can be done to make things better.
What is Lymphedema?
This condition involves a concentration of fluid in specific parts of the body. The fluid retention has to do with some sort of blockage or damage to the body’s immune system. Many people with this condition find that it affects the arms and legs. While more is known about this type of chronic condition than in decades past, the exact reasons for the development of this condition are not fully understood.
How Does It Occur?
Genetics play a role in the development of damage to the lymphatic system. It’s not unusual for the condition to be diagnosed early in life. The damage that occurs while undergoing cancer treatments is possible. Infections may also compromise the ability of the system to pass excess fluid into the bloodstream and prevent it from collecting in tissues. Exposure to parasites can also lead to this condition.
What are Some Physical Signs?
While swelling is one of the more obvious signs, there are others that occur. A sensation of heaviness in the arms, legs, or even in the fingers or toes, is not uncommon. The sufferer’s range of motion will be adversely affected, including making it more difficult to bend at the knee or the elbow. Some patients notice that they have a sensation of constant discomfort in the affected area. The skin texture may also be affected. Patients may find that the skin takes on a more coarse texture or seems to be thicker than other areas of the body.
What are Some Lymphedema Remedies?
While the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed. Exercise is one of the more commonly recommended approaches. The idea is to focus on exercises that are not overly strenuous but do promote circulation in the affected area. Doing so can encourage more efficient drainage and lessen the pain. It will also help preserve the range of motion. A physical therapist can recommend exercises that can be done at home.
Massage is another essential resource. A technique known as manual lymph drainage improves the flow of the lymph fluid away from the affected area. Before scheduling any massage sessions, consult with your doctor and make sure there are no additional factors that would prevent you from enjoying the full benefits of this technique.
Wraps and compression garments help to protect the affected areas and promote the flow of lymph fluid back toward the middle of the body will also help. Making sure the level of constriction is right does take some instruction. The goal is to ensure the level of compression encourages fluid flow but does not interfere with blood circulation.
If you notice swelling that does not go away, consult your physician immediately. With early detection and proper treatment, you can retain your quality of life and keep the condition under control.
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