I often hear from clients that they have experienced swelling for many months or even years before finding out it is lymphedema.
While lymphedema is considered a rare aliment, affecting about 1 in 1,000 Americans, it often goes undiagnosed because people think swelling is just a temporary condition.
However, with lymphedema, swelling becomes ongoing or chronic, meaning it never really goes away. Swelling can cause pain and can affect your daily life. So it is important to speak to your healthcare provider if you notice daily swelling.
What is lymphedema? Perhaps you have heard the term lymphatic system or lymphedema, but what really is this system, and how do people end up with lymphedema?
The lymphatic system is an intricate network of nodes and network of nodes and pathways that carry lymph fluid throughout the body. This fluid is a combination of water; salts, proteins and white blood cells. It serves as a critical component to healthy bodily processes. Normally, your lymphatic systems can move 5 to 6 liters of fluid a day back into circulation.
Lymphedema occurs when there’s an obstruction of the flow in the lymphatic vessels, resulting in swelling in areas such as arms, legs, neck, head and abdominal region. These obstructions can be hereditary or are usually caused by trauma to the lymphatic systems.
There are two types of lymphedema (Primary) and (Secondary)
Primary lymphedema is a genetic condition, which may show at the birth or later in life, that prevents the lymphatic systems from properly draining.
Secondary lymphedema is due to other factors that can cause damage to the lymphatic system; they can include surgery, lymph nodes removal, radiation, infection, injury or a tumour causing obstruction of lymphatic vessels, among others.
It’s best to be aware of potential signs so appropriate action can begin if necessary. Early detection makes treatment more effective. Symptoms may include skin changes such as dry or thickening skin, or skin discolouration. Some clients will describe a feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected extremity.
At South Philly Wellness we offer Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage, each session includes tips on self-care such as exercise and personal massage empowering the client to manage control of their lymphedema.