The term lymphedema comes from the lymphatic system, which helps coordinate the immune system's function to protect the body from foreign substances and includes an extensive network of lymph vessels and lymph nodes.
Here's how the Lymphatic system works:
- Excess fluid is collected from the space between tissues in the body and moves through the lymph vessels. The fluid (now called lymph) isn't pumped through the body like blood, but instead is "pushed" through the lymph system as the vessels are compressed by surrounding muscles.
- Filters called lymph nodes remove certain harmful substances from the lymph fluid, such as bacteria and debris. The fluid from most tissues or organs is filtered through one or more lymph nodes before draining into the bloodstream.
- Primary Lymphedema can be present at birth, develop at the onset of puberty or in adulthood, all from unknown causes, or vascular anomalies.
- Secondary Lymphedema, can develop as a result of surgery, radiation, trauma or infection. Specific surgeries that require the removal of lymph nodes, can result in lymphedema. If lymph nodes are removed, there is a potential risk for developing Lymphedema. Secondary Lymphedema can develop immediately post-operatively, weeks, months or even 20 years later. Radiation and chemotherapy can also contribute to Lymphedema symptoms.
- We, at BC MedEquip, can offer expertise in compression therapy that can benefit those with primary or secondary Lymphedema.
Lymphedema symptoms can include:
- Swelling of part of your arm or leg or your entire arm or leg, including your fingers or toes
- A feeling of “full”, heaviness or tightness in your arm or leg
- Skin tightness
- Restricted range of motion in your arm or leg – decreased flexibility
- 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
- Difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area.
- Swelling in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, chest, or legs. The swelling may occur for the first time after a traumatic event (such as bruises, cuts, sunburn, and sports injuries), after an infection in the part of the body that was treated for cancer, or after an airplane trip lasting more than three hours.
- Tight-fitting bracelet, watch, or ring that wasn't tight before.