What Is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition in which lymph fluids build up in fatty tissues to cause pain, discomfort and swelling in your limbs most likely due to a blockage or damage to your lymphatic system.
Lymph fluid is part of your lymphatic system. It plays an important role in protecting your body from bacteria and viruses and in flushing out waste. You become more vulnerable to infections and disease when lymph fluids build up.
Lymphedema risks and complications include swelling, skin infections, wounds, and skin changes. If you have varicose veins, addressing them early on can help prevent venous insufficiency that can potentially lead to lymphedema.
Signs and symptoms of lymphedema can range from mild to severe. Make an appointment with your provider right away if you think you may have this condition.
Lymphedema signs and symptoms include:
- Skin that feels tight or hard or that has changed in texture
- Skin that looks red or that feels hot to the touch
- Feeling of fullness or heaviness in the area
- Reduced flexibility or movement in nearby joints
- Difficulty fitting your limbs into sleeves and pants
Lymphedema is most common in people whose lymph nodes become blocked due to previous surgeries and venous insufficiency. Lymphedema can also be inherited.
Other lymphedema risk factors include:
- Having had surgery in which lymph nodes or blood vessels in the lymphatic system were reduced, which can lead to a buildup of lymph fluid
- Having received radiation treatment that damaged blood vessels in the lymphatic system
- Having varicose veins, venous insufficiency and/or DVT
- Being overweight or obese
Your provider may be able to diagnose lymphedema after performing a physical exam and talking to you about your signs and symptoms. In some instances, additional testing may be needed to diagnose your condition properly.
Lymphedema Treatment Options
The goal of lymphedema treatment is to reduce swelling and other symptoms, promote healthy skin, prevent ulcerations, and improve overall wellbeing. If you are diagnosed with this condition, your provider can talk to you in greater detail about all your available treatment options.
Your lymphedema treatment may include:
- Exercise, which helps promote blood flow and the draining of lymph fluid
- Massage therapy to help release lymph fluid buildup from tissues
- Compression sleeve or stocking to promote the release of lymph fluid from tissues
- Pneumatic pump to help lymph fluid flow out of the swollen area
- Surgery to repair damaged veins or reduce the cause of the blockage
Contact The Vein Institute of Hunterdon at (908) 788-0066 to request an appointment if you are experiencing any lymphedema signs and symptoms. Our vein specialists will be more than happy to talk to you in greater detail about venous insufficiency and lymphedema treatment.