What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a fairly common, yet serious disorder that is characterized by an abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid. This excess fluid causes swelling in the arms, legs, face, neck, abdomen, genital organs, or lungs.
Lymphedema affects over three million people annually in the U.S. and over 250 million worldwide. While it sometimes occurs without any obvious cause (primary lymphedema), Lymphedema most often results from an injury or the removal of lymph nodes or radiation therapy as treatment for several different types of cancer (secondary lymphedema).
The symptoms of Lymphedema include:
- "Tight" feeling skin
- Discomfort or pain in one or more limbs
- A "full" sensation in one or more limbs
- Reduced flexibility in the hand, wrist, or ankle
- Tight fitting clothing in one specific area
- Unusual tightness of a ring, wrist watch, or bracelet
- Excessive fatigue
Lymphedema treatment options
The most effective course of action for treating and managing Lymphedema can best be determined by the patient's attending physician(s), but there are several treatment options available.
Lymphedema treatment options include:
- Manual drainage of lymph fluid
- Compression bandaging and garments
- Therapeutic exercise routines
- Psychological therapy (if needed)
- Nutrition counseling and advice
- Skin care and personal hygiene routines
Lymphedema patients should rely on their physicians to help them map out the best treatment and management plan for their particular circumstances.
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