Lymphedema is still a rare condition but it’s about time to shed some light on this critical health issue.
The lymphatic system which consists of lymph nodes is an integral part of our immune system ensuring the healthy functioning of our immunity. Lymphedema comes into existence when an error occurs to obstruct the working of this system. In other words, lymphedema is swelling of arms or legs but in a larger context.
What Causes Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is caused by the clogging of extra fluid in your tissues when your lymphatic system isn’t functioning correctly. This happens generally because your lymph nodes are entirely damaged or removed.
The lymph nodes are responsible to remove clutter like waste material, bacteria, and viruses from the fluid that runs in your entire body collecting all these elements. The waste is cleansed and pumped out of your body by lymph nodes. On the flip side when these nodes aren’t working quite really well, this filthy fluid collects and soaks down in your tissues. And further damaging the vessels as well. Hence results in abnormal swelling of a particular body part that lymphedema has affected.
Moreover, the condition can also be a side effect of cancer treatment or infections due to inflammation diseases. Experts even conclude that this could be the result of genetic mutation. Radiation therapy, infections that cause scarring of tissue, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, eczema, injury or trauma, and increased WBCs due to leukemia could also be leading triggers of this condition.
Some external parasitic infections can also lead to the blocking of lymph nodes. Acute skin burns or anything that causes extensive scarring, on the other hand, may also increase the chance of contracting lymphedema. Moreover, lymphedema can be categorized into two parts.
Congenital or primary lymphedema is associated with the presence of the condition at the time of birth. Secondary lymphedema refers to the arrival of the disorder after getting in contact with other external factors like infection, inflammation, or radiation.
What Signs to Look For in Lymphedema?
Lymphedema can affect any part of the body but it’s most commonly seen in the arms and legs. Some common indications seen in lymphedema patients can be:
● Minor or major swelling in arms, breast, chest, legs, and shoulders.
● Skin inflammation and redness are accompanied by tightness and a change in texture.
● Abnormal aching and itching, numbness, and tingling on the affected skin.
● Lack of flexibility and movement.
● Some patients might experience it in the head, genitals, or chest.
How should I treat Lymphedema? Is physiotherapy the Right Choice?
When compared to non-surgical treatments for lymphedema, surgery has previously had a poor prognosis. Though studies to completely eradicate lymphedema are still rolling, physiotherapy is seen to be an effective choice to treat this condition.
With a combination of multiple exercises and massage, swelling is compressed and flexibility in movement is also achieved. By contracting muscles, low-intensity exercise increases lymph outflow and protein retention, enhances cardiovascular health, and reduces oedema. Common physiotherapies to tackle lymphedema include:
1. Pneumatic compression: Also called pressure therapy, this technique pressurizes the limbs with the help of compressed air pumps.
2. Elevation: elevation is a great method to regain the normal size of the limb by using air-compressed bladders on the affected part.
3. Decongestion lymphedema therapy: This technique comprises dual undertakings, including a subtle manual massage and then compressed bandaging. DLT is majorly effective to look after complex lymphedema by directly aiming at dissipating sclerotic tissues.
4. Garment fitting: In this, the patient is asked to wear compression garments which help in normalizing the skin size.
5. Manual lymph drainage: MLD is a fabulous method to elevate lymph flow by manually soft massaging the affected part.
6. Compression pumps help to flush out the filthy fluid stuck in the tissues, thus reducing the swelling.
7. Gentle massaging is also incorporated into the therapy from time to time to directly soften the hard swollen skin.
Lymphedema is a disorder that is often neglected and under-reported, despite the fact that it affects a large number of people. It is a matter of grave concern that, if not treated properly, can soon become quite catastrophic. Physiotherapy can help prevent and manage lymphoedema, a chronic illness that's both mentally and physically draining.
If you or someone you love is suffering from this, you should consult expert physiotherapists to get rid of the strain. Physiotherapists at fit o fine use cutting-edge advanced practices that include but are not limited to the use of massages, movements, and exercises. Make an appointment with us so that one of our therapists can discuss the best treatment option for you.