What is Lymphedema?
First I would need to explain what lymph is just in case you do not know.
Lymph is a liquid that nourishes the tissue in blind-end vessels. Lymph travels from your capillaries into the main circulation through the veins in your neck. Lymphedema is a condition where the soft tissues in the limbs swell; the swelling is caused by excessive build up of the lymph fluid.
Is there more then one type of lymphedema?
There are the primary and the secondary conditions. Primary lymphedema is a not so common condition. The patient is born with this type of lymphedema, which may not be identifiable until the effected are in their late teens or even the adulthood.
Secondary lymphedema is caused by injury or damage to the lymphatic system. Sometimes trauma or parasites along with surgery and radiation can also cause this.
This may lead to chronic lymphedema if the lymphatic system cannot repair itself. Is it serious? How can I tell? Mild conditions can usually be fixed easily as the mild symptoms affect only one part of the body, with little to almost no swelling.
The patient may feel some pain and a feeling of extra weight on the limb or an ache or sore feeling. The moderate condition usually will last over a period of months or years; a decent amount of enlargement can be noticed in the arm: between a half an inch to two inches.
Swelling feels quite firm and elevating of the arm does not reduce swelling. If not treated, severe conditions may turn into elephantitis; symptoms will show over two inches of enlargement, severe swelling, and ulcers.
Also and bacterial and fungal infections can occur. One of the reasons for lymphedema is radiation therapy in cancer patients. Radiation can trigger the lymph nodes to develop.
In the breast cancer patients, the lymph nodes may start to grow under the armpit. How can breast cancer patients help reduce their chances of getting lymphedema?
Naturally, regular doctor consultations are the must. If an infection begins, getting medication prescription is on the top list of the doctor visits. Putting on weight after cancer treatment should be avoided as is a prevention of injuries.
Also, airplane flights and anything that causes the blood to rush to one area too quickly is not recommended. What are the common lymphedema treatments? There are multiple ways to treat the condition. Different types of lymphedema will require specific treatments and not all conditions will call for the same treatments.
They also vary from person to person. Most common lymphedema treatments are special compression techniques. They call for bandaging the limb in a specific way, so the lymph in the lymphatic system is forced to flow. Another method involves wrapping in so-called a static compression device, which is similar to bandaging.
Lymphedema patients will also recognize a lymphedema compression pumps. Those pumps are used in conjunction with the special massage known as manual lymphatic drainage, short MLD.
The manual lymphatic drainage needs to be done by another person; therefore, it is mostly done by professional lymphedema therapist. Although, a family member or friend can be trained in the special massage to help the patient to do MLD at home. The lymphedema patients must take a really good care of the skin and keep it unbroken as they can easily get different kinds of infections.
Keeping the weight in check is not the only thing they need think about either.
Lymphedema & Exercise
Special exercises for lymphedema patients are recommended because the exercise helps the lymph flow as unlike blood, lymph is not “pumped” by heart and relies on the body movement only Although the lymphedema can be a very daunting condition, with a proper care and treatment, the symptoms can be significantly reduced and help the patient to live a somewhat normal life.
For patients with lymphedema, exercise programs should gradually progress so as to avoid a sprain or strain.
This slow progression of an exercise program will also allow the patient of this disease to monitor the effect the exercise is having. In addition to this one can also easily monitor if there is any sensation of aching or fullness in the affected limb.
This sensation of aching or fullness could hint that lymphatic system is being overwhelmed by the affects of exercise.
The best treatment combination for lymphedema that one can have is with compression. This can be done by using various techniques including compression bandages and or compression garments.
These bandages will help in providing a tighter skin against which the muscles will contract. Compression bandages will also help in getting the lymph out of the limb and into the central circulation. Due to lymphedema the lymph vessels not affected work double the time to transport the lymph load.
As a result of this phenomenon the overworked vessels get dilated, and in the end, their walls can overstretch and even fail. This can worsen the swelling which is already present due to lymphedema.
While exercising if you wear compression bandages or a compression garment these things will provide the required support to the skin around the area and the lymphatic vessels which are present directly under the skin (superficial lymphatic network).
It is the superficial lymphatic network vessels that assist in carrying the load when larger vessels are not available due to being cut away from the lymph nodes or due to damage resulting from trauma or chronic venous disease.
It should, however, be noted that there are certain exercise types that are considered riskier.
Following are certain things that one needs to keep in mind with regards to lymphedema and exercise treatment.
Many men and women who suffer from the disease may feel like working out with weights. This is possible only if there is a slow progression of light weights. This may even let an individual develop good strength and power in any muscle group.
One should notice if they feel good after exercising or not and how the affected limb or area is reacting to the exercise.
Exercise should be done only after you have properly evaluated your level of daily activity and modified according to the assessment. If an affected person has had a difficult day and you notice that your limb is more swollen, you could choose to do a different exercise like going for a swim rather than a walk.