October 8, 2009

Prevention And Treatments For Lymphedema

Posted in Category : Bone, Joint & Muscles Disorders

Lymphedema is a condition in which fluid accumulates in a part of the body as a result of a problem with the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a network of lymph tissue that carries lymph fluids through the body. When the lymph vessels are damaged as a result of surgery, radiation therapy, disease, or physical trauma, the lymph fluid is unable to circulate properly, and therefore builds up in a particular area. Usually, it is a single limb that is affected, resulting in swelling of the limb along with symptoms of fatigue. Along with the swelling, the affected limb may also feel heavy and stiff, and there may be pain or simply a feeling of discomfort. Often the skin of the affected limb is affected too – it may become discolored, thick, and hard. If untreated, lymphedema can lead to the limb becoming deformed. Infections may also take hold, which may cause ulcers to form, and even more serious conditions such as cellulitis.

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely cure lymphedema – prompt and regular treatment can however keep the condition under control. The simplest and most natural treatment is exercising the affected limb. Strenuous exercise is not advisable, but light exercises can help the accumulated lymph fluid to move out of the limb. Any light exercise is beneficial, but to get the most benefit out of exercise, it is advisable to consult your doctor who will teach you special therapeutic exercises.

Bandaging the affected limb is also helpful, as it provides more resistance for the lymph vessels to push against, thus making them work more effectively. The bandage is typically tied tight at the extremity, and more loosely as it approaches the torso. Here too, it is advisable to learn how to tie the bandages from a therapist, and then do it at home on a regular basis. A wrongly tied bandage may work as a tourniquet instead of as a compression bandage – blood and lymph flow may be constricted instead of being improved.

There are other treatments for lymphedema too – special massages, compression garments, and pneumatic compression therapy. You should ask your doctor about whether these treatments are suitable for you. In the meanwhile, it may also help to elevate the affected limb at regular intervals, and ensure that you always wear loose, comfortable clothes. You should also be extremely strict about hygiene levels for the affected limb, as it is very vulnerable to infection. At the slightest sign of any infection, you should consult a doctor.