Lymphedema therapy

Lymphedema is a disease which occurs when the soft tissues of the body start to swell because of fluids starting to collect in the gaps in and between cells. This disease occurs more frequently in the arms and legs of individuals though it can sometimes be noticed in other areas such as the abdomen, neck and even in the genitals. Lymphedema advances further as the lymph vessels and nodes are hampered or damaged. Lymphedema therapy varies according to the underlying causes as well as the stages of the particular illness. Although prescribed medicines might include antibiotics, the most important aspects during lymphedema therapy are to learn how to take good care of health.

Lymphedema can be divided into two groups: primary and secondary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema is not seen very often. The cause of its occurrence is still unknown though it is probably because of insufficient number of lymph vessels or the vessels not working altogether. Primary lymphedema can also be acquired from birth where the individual is born with fewer lymph vessels than normal. In such a case it is known as Congenital Lymphedema.

Secondary lymphedema occurs because of a blockage of a single or a number of lymphatic vessels and nodes. Blockages can be caused because of a number of reasons, usually from an infection, as a side effect of a previous surgery, formation of scar tissues, from blood clots or even from any treatment regarding cancer. This blockage changes the normal flow of the lymph fluids which then later collect in any open space they can find, thus causing the swelling.

Thankfully however, lymphedema has a number of ways to be cured. It ranges from medication to surgery. There are also a few exercises and special physical methods that may be followed to reduce the swelling. But the most important factor regarding lymphedema therapy is to know how to take care of oneself.

The primary way to reduce the swelling of the limbs is to make the trapped fluids flow out of the tissue and back into the lymph vessels. To achieve this, there are a number of exercises which put pressure on the affected areas, forcing the fluid slowly back into the vessels. These exercises are meant to be gentle and not directed at burning calories.

It is also very helpful to tightly wrap the affected areas with cloth correctly so that there is enough pressure to drive the liquid out of the gaps. This is done by wrapping bandages around the limbs, starting from the toes and fingers. This is where the bandage should be the tightest and should slowly ease up on pressure as the bandage is wrapped upwards.

There is also a special massage that is specially designed to aid lymphedema patients. It is called the manual lymph drainage massage which puts pressure in certain areas that drive the fluid back into the correct, healthy lymph vessels. This massage requires special hand movements and strokes which may be demonstrated by any doctor or professional.

However, the lymph drainage massage is not suitable for all lymphedema patients. Some patients who suffer from any skin infections, heart problems such as congestive heart failure, have blood clots or are inflicted by cancer should avoid using this massage technique. This massage therapy should also not be used on any areas that have recently been exposed to radiation therapy.

All the techniques mentioned above are truly beneficial for those who do not wish to undergo surgery. They can be demonstrated by the doctors or a lymphedema specialist and work best when combined with the correct medications. However, if the case of lymphedema is severe, then surgery will be inevitable.


Last updated on May 4th, 2010 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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