Lymphedema, also known as lymphatic obstruction, is an accumulation of fluid that causes your body to swell due to a compromised lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system may be compromised because of injury, lymph node dissection, radiation therapy, cancer surgery, or some kind of medical abnormality. The lymphatic system, often referred to as the body’s “second” circulatory system, collects and filters the interstitial fluid of the body used to fight viruses or disesases and distribute vitamins and nutrients. Although it isn’t recognized as a serious medical condition, as those who experience it rarely feel significant pain, the danger with lymphedema comes from the constant risk of developing an uncontrollable infection.
Lymphedema can affect both men and women in similar ways. Women usually develop lymphedema in an upper limb after breast cancer surgery and lymph node dissection in the arm on the side of the body in which the surgery was performed. Lymphedema may also occur in the lower limbs or groin after surgery for colon, ovarian, or uterine cancer that required lymph node removal. In men, lower-limb lymphedema in one or both legs is most common. This is usually the result of surgery or treatments for prostate, colon, and testicular cancers where lymph nodes were removed or damaged.
To treat lymphedema, Horton’s Orthotics & Prosthetics provides compression garments to aid in decongestive therapy. This includes sleeves, gloves, stockings, bras, camisoles, and shorts designed for daytime or nighttime use.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lymphedema
Primary Lymhpedema is caused by abnormalities in the lymphatic system that are either present at birth or develop later, often during puberty. Secondary Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymphatic system, usually through surgery or lymph node removal.
The first symptom of lymphedema is usually a type of swelling characterized by “pitting,” which you can recognize if after applying pressure to the swollen area, the indentation does not immediately disappear. Other symptoms include a tightness or heaviness in the swollen area or changes in skin texture.
If it is diagnosed early and managed properly through compression garments, skin care, and therapy, you can be relieved of your lymphedema. Maintaining this managed routine is very important, however, as your symptoms can return if you are not careful.
To maximize the effectiveness of your compression garments, you should wash and dry them with a mild detergent daily according to the manufacturer’s care labels. Fabric softeners and bleach may cause damage.
Aside from when you shower, bathe, or swim, you should always wear your compression garments. This is especially important when traveling, as cabin pressure on a plane and prolonged sitting can put stress on the lymphatic system and cause your body to swell. Wearing compression garments is also very helpful while you are exercising or doing other activities such as gardening or cleaning, as repetitive motion encourages circulation.