Lymphoedema is the swelling of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a system of fluid-filled organs located throughout the body.
There are two types of lymphoedema – chronic lymphoedema and acute lymphoedema.
Lymphoedema of the lymphatic system is usually caused by an accident or illness that has caused the lymphatic system to become swollen and the lymphatic fluid to accumulate.
The lymphatic system is a network of organs that allow the body to absorb nutrients and removes toxins. When a person has chronic lymphoedema, there is an abnormal build up of lymph fluid in the lymph nodes or lymph system.
When the fluid is fluid and not blood, this is called end-stage lymphoedema
The fluid in the lymph nodes is not able to drain away the accumulated fluid. When the fluid is blood, this is called acute lymphoedema. This condition may last from a few hours to a few weeks or even months.
Lymphoedema of the lymphatic system can occur as either localized or generalized. In localized conditions, the lymph nodes may swell but not the lymph fluid; in a generalized condition, the lymph fluid may accumulate and cause swelling in a number of organs.
Lymphoedema may be caused by the overuse of a particular organ
Common causes include cancer treatments, radiation therapy, and hematopoietic stem cell transplant. The treatment of choice is determined by the type of lymphoedema.
When the lymph fluid becomes excessively enlarged, the organ is no longer able to drain the fluid. The body will swell in response to the increased fluid pressure. These swollen tissues in the organ will produce a noticeable lumpy appearance. Lymphoedema of the lymphatic system is very common in patients of all ages.
The treatment depends on the type of lymphoedema and whether the condition is localized or generalized. When the lymph nodes are involved in a generalized condition, doctors may choose to use a corticosteroid, an anti-inflammatory agent that decreases inflammation and relieves pain and swelling.
In a localized condition, doctors may decide to use a lymph node-selective radioisotope, an imaging tool used to create images of the affected area. to determine the extent of the problem.
Certain medications and lifestyle choices can help reduce the symptoms of lymphoedema. In a localized condition, reducing stress and increasing fluid intake will reduce swelling. If the lymph nodes are enlarged, reducing stress will help to improve fluid drainage.
If a patient is overweight, excess weight may increase the fluid build-up and cause fluid to accumulate in other parts of the body. Lymphoedema may also be aggravated by a poor diet.
The major causes of lymphoedema
Lymphoedema is caused by a problem with the lymphatic system. This is a network of vessels and glands distributed throughout the body. Its major functions are helping to fight infection and drain excess fluid from tissues. Abnormal development of the lymphatic system, damage to it, and/or an increase in fluid in the body tissues can all lead to lymphoedema.
Primary lymphoedema: caused by faulty genes affecting the development of the lymphatic system; it can develop at any age, but usually occurs in early adulthood
Secondary lymphoedema: caused by damage to the lymphatic system or problems with the movement and drainage of fluid in the lymphatic system, often due to an infection, injury, cancer treatment, inflammation of the limb or a lack of limb movement. Read more about causes of lymphoedema
Treatment for lymphoedema
To treat lymphoedema, a person must exercise and reduce the intake of foods that are rich in sugar, salt and saturated fats. Treatment of the lymphoedema may vary with the severity of the condition. If it is not too severe, surgery may be performed. If the condition is more severe, radiation therapy may be used. However, surgery may cause a person to become more overweight.
In a chronic condition, patients need to maintain a low-pressure breathing approach. This means that they can breathe deeply but not too deeply. If the lymph fluid is not drained, pressure on the organs will increase. A special breathing mask should be used for those patients with symptoms.
In most cases, a patient may not be able to perform physical activities for a long time. To relieve symptoms of lymphoedema, a massage can be used. To treat chronic lymphoedema, a special massage can be performed on a daily basis.
In severe cases of lymphoedema, fluid buildup may cause deformities to occur. To prevent this from occurring, doctors may decide to perform surgery. In some cases, medications may be used to treat the condition.
In some cases, patients may be treated with a synthetic drug, such as steroids. These drugs may be used to reduce inflammation. However, steroids should not be used on a long-term basis. In some cases, a patient may be injected with a drug that decreases the production of the lymph fluid produced by the immune system.
There are some medications that can be used to treat the symptoms of lymphoedema. However, the success of the treatment will depend on the severity of the condition.
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