Lymphedema causes may be classified as primary (can occur on its own) or secondary (caused by another disease or health condition). This health condition primarily affects the circulatory system and immune function. Here, we will provide answers to the frequently asked questions about what lymphedema is to help you better understand this health condition.
Lymphedema Causes | Understanding the Causes and FAQs
In this article:
- What Is Lymphedema?
- What Causes Lymphedema?
- What Are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?
- How Does Surgery Trigger Lymphedema?
- Why Do You Need a Lymphedema Therapist?
What Is Lymphedema?
Before we dig deeper into the lymphedema causes, let’s first go back to what this health condition is. Lymphedema is a condition wherein excess fluid gets trapped in the lymphatic system, a part of the circulatory system. An affected person suffers from inflammation, usually in the limbs. It can also appear in the chest, head, or genitals.
What Causes Lymphedema?
Primary lymphedema is caused by mutations in genes that are involved in the development of the lymphatic system. These faulty genes disrupt the normal development of the lymphatic system that results in the intervention of fluid draining.
On the other hand, secondary lymphedema may be caused by the following:
Injuries can result in complications that affect fluid drainage. For example, severe skin burns or any medical condition that results in excessive scarring can raise the risk of lymphedema development. This is because the skin houses lymphatic capillaries. When the continuity of the skin is interrupted by a scar, the lymphatic vessels are affected, too. This, in turn, leads to swelling.
- Cardiovascular Diseases
Cardiovascular diseases are another possible cause of lymphedema. Since these diseases affect the blood flow, patients who have them have higher chances of developing lymphedema.
- Inflammatory Conditions
Inflammatory conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, can greatly affect the lymphatic system. Other conditions included are eczema and dermatitis.
Infections like severe cellulitis infection can cause damage to the tissue surrounding the vessels and lymph nodes. Infections can lead to scarring that can increase the risk of lymphedema.
- Radiation Therapy
Radiation therapy that destroys cancerous tissues can also cause damage to healthy ones. The lymphatic system is no exception.
- Cancer Surgery
Cancer cells can spread in the body through the lymphatic system. Because cancer surgery removes lymph nodes, the development of lymphedema is not far-fetched.
What Are the Lymphedema Symptoms?
For primary lymphedema, the symptoms usually occur at birth or shortly after puberty. Secondary lymphedema exhibit the following symptoms:
- severe fatigue
- wart-like growths or blisters on the skin
- hardening and thickening of the skin
- recurring skin infections
- a tingling sensation in the affected limbs
- discomfort in the affected limbs
- restricted range of motion in the affected limbs
- tight feeling in the arms or legs
- inflammation in the neck or head
- difficulty wearing jewelry or fitting shoes or clothes
- swelling of the arms or legs
How Does Surgery Trigger Lymphedema?
Undergoing a lymphedema surgery can trigger the development of lymphedema because of the removal of the lymph nodes. The sentinel node techniques are used in about 40% of breast cancer patients. This technique removes four affected lymph nodes, which raises the risk of 6%. Removing more than that can increase the risk to 15-25%.
Why Do You Need a Lymphedema Therapist?
A lymphedema therapist has the full knowledge about the condition. The therapist can perform lymphedema surgery and therapy to lessen the symptoms effectively. He or she can also provide home visits for continuity of treatment.
Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive condition. Its prognosis may rely on proper management and a strict treatment plan. For a less affected lifestyle, ensure healthy food intake and regular exercise and abide by prescribed medication and lymphedema management plan.
Supplements can Help
Supplements that help break down larger particles in the lymphatic fluid can help reduce the viscosity of the lymphatic fluid. Proteolytic enzymes work best for this purpose. However, to be effective these enzymes need to be taken away from food. Otherwise, the enzymes will just work on the food and not get into the lymphatic space. Certain homeopathics are also helpful in promoting lymphatic drainage. Supplements to improve lymphatic drainage.
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Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. None of the nutritional products mentioned is intended to Diagnose, Treat, Cure, or Prevent Any Disease.