Both men and women are susceptible to the condition known as Lymphedema. This condition occurs when lymphatic fluid starts to accumulate in the extremities, most often prominently visible the arms and legs. Lymphatic fluid is composed of water, fat, and proteins and when it pools in excess anywhere in the body, can result in extreme and often times painful swelling. Our understanding of the cause of lymphedema is rapidly expanding. Lymphedema is the result of damage to lymphatic vessels leading to fluid retention in the soft interstitial tissue under the skin, resulting in Lymphedema. Where the circulation of lymphatic fluids is hindered, gradual fluid retention is the unfavorable result. Genetic predisposition and past injuries have also been pointed to as potential causes of Lymphedema in patients.
Symptoms That Indicate the Development of Lymphedema
When it comes to the symptoms associated with Lymphedema, the most noticeable is swelling of the limbs. It develops gradually and is usually first seen at the end of the day. For many patients, this can be a painful tightness or aching symptom that tends to be more prominent on one side of the body as opposed to the other. It is not uncommon for patients with Lymphedema to experience a lack of flexibility as limbs swell, a heaviness in the extremities and overall fatigue caused by fluid retention. Redness may also be noticeable on those extremities where swelling is most severe.
Motivation for Seeking Lymphedema Treatment
Patients who suffer from Lymphedema are extremely prone to developing subsequent infections as a result of excessive swelling. If left unattended, Lymphedema can provoke fibrosis, which is the hardening of the usually soft subcutaneous tissue. Ultimately, fibrosis is a key factor in poor circulation and associated medical issues as pressure is put on viable veins to move blood towards the heart. As with all progressive conditions, Lymphedema possesses the potential to transform into something much more serious very quickly.
What to Expect When Diagnosing Lymphedema
Before Lymphedema can ever be treated on any level, it has to be recognized. A physical exam and medical profile overview are the first steps in determining if the condition is Lymphedema. In many cases, a Lymphoscintigraphy will be performed to verify Lymphedema and requires a physician to inject a patient with either a radioactive solution or medicinal dye that will ultimately map lymphatic fluid movement and indicate problematic areas. A Venous Doppler Ultrasound provides additional insight for physicians as to how a patient may be affected by Lymphedema.
Once the type of Lymphedema a patient suffers from is diagnosed, a plan can be put into place to reduce symptoms associated with the condition. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Lymphedema, but several options that help reduce or eliminate symptoms. Lymphedema patients are categorized in one of three ways. Patients with Congenital Lymphedema develop the condition in childhood. Patients suffering from Lymphedema Praecox begin to develop symptoms of the condition in adolescence. Lymphedema Tarda categorizes patients who develop Lymphedema in adulthood.
Lymphedema treatment options often begin with the recommended use of compression garments on a regular basis. The use of specialized compression sleeves, leggings, stockings and gauntlets can work well to promote healthy fluid circulation in the body and ultimately reduce the probability of swelling or pain associated with swelling. Alongside compression garments, many patients with Lymphedema find lymphatic massage and drainage to aid in the reduction of pain and swelling. In more severe cases, a physician may recommend a patient undergo intermittent compression pump therapy. This process involves using a pump to move lymphatic fluids away from pooling areas in the body and more efficiently through the venous system.
There are also a variety of home care solutions that physicians often recommend patients with a Lymphedema stick to in order to regulate their condition. Because Lymphedema puts patients at a higher risk of infection, it’s advisable for patients to wear protective clothing and sturdy shoes to avoid cuts and injuries. Similarly, these individuals will benefit greatly from thorough drying after baths and showers. While a commitment to regular exercise and a healthy diet is vital for patients with Lymphedema, it’s also important that they remain hyper-vigilant about posture, especially those patients who work at jobs where they are seated for the majority of the day. In order to promote improved and healthy circulation, patients suffering from Lymphedema should sit with their legs uncrossed and stand and walk frequently throughout the daytime hours.
Schedule a Consultation Today
Dr. Wright and his team at the St. Louis Laser Lipo and Vein Center are committed to the fight for finding a cure to Lymphedema and in the meantime, provide a variety of treatment and services that could help relieve the symptoms for patients with this condition. If someone thinks they have lymphedema and would like to learn more about the treatment options, they should consider scheduling a medical consultation with Dr. Wright. He will take time to get to know his patients concerns and preferences before a personalized treatment plan is put into place. Contact us today to learn more about our many options and take the first step to fight the symptoms of Lymphedema. Read through our blog today!