Lymphedema is an out-of-the-ordinary swelling that happens when an excess fluid called lymph builds up in your body's tissues. The swelling usually presents in the legs, hands, and arms, but it can also affect the breast, underarm, chest, genitals, or back. It is a common side effect of cancer treatment, and it can appear months or even years after the treatment ends. Lymphedema is a long-term condition, meaning that once it develops, it can be kept under control but might not ever go away entirely. Keep reading to learn more about this condition and how to treat it. We’ll also recommend a great lymphedema specialist in New York.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
This condition tends to develop gradually, so it may not be immediately apparent when you have it. The main symptom is swelling in a specific part of the body. Some other signs to look out for include:
- A sensation of fullness or heaviness.
- Reduced flexibility or tightness in the affected body part.
- Constant skin infections.
- Stiff or tight skin (fibrosis).
- Developing folds in the skin.
Causes of Lymphedema
The main cause of this condition is damage to the lymphatic system, which is a web of vessels and glands spread through the body. Its primary purpose is to fight infections and drain excess fluids.
Lymphedema is categorized into two different types:
- Primary lymphedema is caused by mutations in one's genes and often runs within the family.
- Secondary lymphedema develops in someone who previously had a healthy lymphatic system.
In the case of secondary lymphedema, the most common causes are:
- Parasites– They are mostly present in developing countries found in the tropics. The most prevalent cause features threadlike worms, which infect and block lymph nodes.
- Cancer– Blockage of lymph vessels by cancer cells could lead to lymphedema. If a tumor starts to grow close to a lymph vessel or lymph node, it could grow large enough to obstruct lymph liquid flow.
- Surgery– During surgery for cancer, some lymph nodes may be removed to observe the extent of disease spread. This can result in lymphedema. However, it doesn't necessarily occur every time.
- Radiation Treatment for Cancer– Radiation may impact lymph vessels or lymph nodes such that they experience inflammation or scarring.
How To Treat Lymphedema
Lymphedema is a chronic condition that cannot go away completely. However, many treatments can reduce and control the swelling, symptoms, and general discomfort. Your doctor may recommend some of the following:
- Compression Treatments– They are designed to mitigate swelling and prevent eventual scarring alongside other complications. They can be garments or devices that apply pressure on your swollen limb.
- Bandages– If wrapped in the right way, bandages can help facilitate lymph fluid flow toward your body's center. They can also prevent this fluid from going back to the swollen limb.
- Exercise– Some forms of exercise can help drain the lymph and regain strength in your affected limb.
- Manual Compression– This form of manual lymph drainage is done using massage techniques. If you are wondering how to improve lymphatic drainage in legs or in other body parts, this could work.
- Surgical Treatments– Surgery does not cure Lymphedema. This treatment is an option for the most severe cases where it is necessary to extract tissue and fluid surgically.
Lymphedema Specialist in New York | Synergy Health Associates
Given the proper treatment, living with lymphedema can be much easier. The first step is to consult with an expert to explore which treatment options are best suited for you. We at Synergy Health Associates prioritize that our patients have a comfortable and caring atmosphere for treatment, as well as holistic and alternative treatments. Schedule an appointment with our team of experts or call (212)-243-5515 today to discuss your treatment options.