Lymphedema

Background 

Lymphedema refers to the condition when either one or both of your arms or legs are swollen due any damage or removal of your lymph nodes. It happens usually due to the side effect of cancer treatment which blocks the lymphatic system. In result the fluid builds up to a bulge like structure because of the lymphatic channels which cause circulation of fluids between the tissues and blood vessels. 

Types of lymphedema

 Lymphedema is of two types:

  • Primary lymphedema/ Congenital Lymphedema
  • Secondary lymphedema 

Primary lymphedema is a kind of lymphedema, which is visible at the time of birth or soon after the child hit puberty. However, it is rarely seen in the patients.

Secondary lymphedema arises as a result of something else for example- side effects of cancer treatment (Radiation therapy),injury, trauma, infection, some cancers, etc. Most cases are of secondary lymphedema. 

Causes of Lymphedema 

The lymphatic system is responsible for gathering viruses, bacteria, waste product and most importantly circulating lymph fluid throughout the body which is rich in protein. During the process, the waste is separated by lymphocytes; a cell that fight infections and eventually the process eject the waste out from the body. This problem happens when the lymph fluid isn’t drained out properly by the lymph vessels. 

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The swelling in this problem may not be noticeable in all the cases, so one should instantly visit a doctor if they notice any. 

Some other signs & symptoms of lymphedema include:

  1. Swelling of part or all of your leg, including toes
  2. Heaviness or tightness
  3. Fatigue
  4. Blisters on the skin
  5. Restricted range of motion
  6. Aching or discomfort 
  7. Difficulty wearing shoes 
  8. Recurring infections
  9. Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)

Prevention for Lymphedema

Since most cases of lymphedema comes from secondary type of lymphedema, usually from the side effects of cancer treatment. So if you are planning to undergo any cancer treating procedure, you should ask your doctor if that treatment would affect your lymph or not. However, there are other reasons too, so below are some ways to reduce the risk of this disease: 

  • Protect your leg

If your limb is already affected then you should protect it from any other injury because if you affected limb gets in contact with anything damaging then it can further catch the infection and leads to a more complex problem.

  • Don’t apply heat pad on the affected limb

Applying both heat or cold pad on the affected limb, especially without the doctor’s consultation can worsen the condition. 

  • Keep your legs clean

Apart from usual hygiene, it is really important to clean your legs in order to eliminate infections and other problems. Do not walk around without shoes or in some cases using  uncomfortable shoes

  • Avoid lifting weight

Lifting weight puts pressure on your body, if you are already affected then you should not take this risk. 

  • Wear comfortable clothes

Unbreathable clothes may cause discomfort and can irritate your affected area, you should try to go for loose & breathable clothes. 

  • Take proper rest 

Until you don’t recover completely from surgery, you should avoid stretching too much. It may result in- If your limb is already affected then you should protect it from any other injury because if you affected limb gets in contact with anything damaging then it can further catch the infection and leads to a more complex problem.

  • Don’t apply heat pad on the affected limb

Applying both heat or cold pad on the affected limb, especially without the doctor’s consultation can worsen the condition. 

  • Keep your legs clean

Apart from usual hygiene, it is really important to clean your legs in order to eliminate infections and other problems. Do not walk around without shoes or in some cases using  uncomfortable shoes

  • Avoid lifting weight

Lifting weight puts pressure on your body, if you are already affected then you should not take this risk. 

  • Wear comfortable clothes

Unbreathable clothes may cause discomfort and can irritate your affected area, you should try to go for loose & breathable clothes. 

  • Take proper rest 

Until you don’t recover completely from surgery, you should avoid stretching too much. It may result in a severe problem. 

Treatment for Lymphedema

Medical treatment- The aim of the medical treatment is to resolve the swelling and prevent the progression of the disease. Along with the medications patients are advised to undergo 

  1. Exercising 
  2. Massaging
  3. Use of compression garment
  4. Keep covered the affected part to prevent secondary infection  

Surgical treatment – 

The aim of the surgical treatment is restore the normal shape of leg by removal of the excess of the tissue. There are multiple surgeries have been described to remove  the extra tissue and correct the deformity. 

With advent of techniques, lymphatic transfer procedure is highly specialised procedure performed by expertise plastic, reconstructive and micro surgeons to enhance the normal circulation of lymph in legs. This in turn will reduce the swelling of leg and enhance the normal fluid circulation of the leg. 

To know more, consult our team of the best plastic and reconstructive surgeons at Surgeons House Limited (SHL) available at different global locations. Please click this link to contact us. 

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