Posts Tagged ‘lymph glands’

Lymphedema

June 18, 2008

Lymphedema is a condition where excess fluid collects in tissues and causes swelling. This can happen after any cancer therapy that disrupts the lymphatic system and may occur soon after surgery or radiation, or at a later date.

Lymphedema is a type of abnormal swelling of an arm or leg. Swelling ranges from mild, hardly noticeable changes in the size of your limb to extreme swelling that can make it impossible to use the affected arm or leg.

Lymphedema symptoms include:

* Swelling of part of your arm or your entire arm or leg, including your fingers or toes
* A feeling of heaviness or tightness in your arm or leg
* Restricted range of motion in your arm or leg
* Aching or discomfort in your arm or leg
* Recurring infections in your affected limb
* Hardening and thickening of the skin on your arm or leg

Your body’s lymphatic system is part of your immune system, which protects you against infection and disease. It includes your spleen, thymus, bone marrow, lymph nodes and lymph channels, as well as your tonsils and adenoids.

Lymphedema refers to swelling that occurs most often in your arms or legs. It may affect just one arm or leg, but sometimes lymphedema can involve both arms or both legs. The swelling occurs when a blockage in your lymphatic system prevents the lymph fluid in your arm or leg from draining adequately. As the fluid accumulates, the swelling continues.

No cure for lymphedema exists, but lymphedema can be controlled. Controlling lymphedema involves diligent care of your affected limb.

Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid from your arm or leg. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. This means it can occur on its own (primary lymphedema) or it can be caused by another disease or condition (secondary lymphedema).

Causes of primary lymphedema
Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body. Primary lymphedema occurs most frequently in women and usually affects the legs, rather than the arms. Specific causes of primary lymphedema include:

* Milroy disease (congenital lymphedema). This is an inherited disorder that begins in infancy and causes a malformation of your lymph nodes, leading to lymphedema.
* Meige disease (lymphedema praecox). This hereditary disorder causes lymphedema in childhood or around puberty. It causes your lymph vessels to form without the valves that keep lymph fluid from flowing backwards, making it difficult for your body to properly drain the lymph fluid from your limbs.
* Late-onset lymphedema (lymphedema tarda). This occurs rarely and usually begins after age 35.

Causes of secondary lymphedema
Any condition or procedure that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels can cause lymphedema. Causes include:

* Surgery can cause lymphedema to develop if your lymph nodes and lymph vessels are removed or severed. For instance, surgery for breast cancer may include the removal of one or more lymph nodes in your armpit to look for evidence that cancer has spread. If your remaining lymph nodes and lymph vessels can’t compensate for those that have been removed, lymphedema may result in your arm.
* Radiation treatment for cancer can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels, restricting flow of the lymph.
* Cancer cells can cause lymphedema if they block lymphatic vessels. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could become large enough to obstruct the flow of the lymph fluid.
* Infection can infiltrate your lymph vessels and lymph nodes, restricting the flow of lymph fluid and causing lymphedema. Parasites also can block lymph vessels. Infection-related lymphedema is most common in tropical and subtropical regions of the globe and is more likely to occur in undeveloped countries.
* Injury that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels also can cause lymphedema.

Alternative Treatments for Lymphedema can include, message to enhance the flow of lymph and drain it away from the distressed areas, reflexology to stimulate the natural reflex of the lymph glands, acupuncture or acupressure to promote circulation and  auriculotherapy to promote pain relief.

Do your part to open up health care to alternative and natural remedies and treatments.  They are less costly, less painful and less harmful then many allopathic practices. Get your degree in natural or alternative health care from American Eastern Institute.

When to seek medical advice

Date updated: December 01, 2007
Content provided by MayoClinic.com

Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any persistent swelling in your arms, legs or lymph nodes.