An abnormal swelling in the arm or leg can indicate Lymphedema, a severe lymphatic disorder that affects an individual’s motility badly. The trained professionals at American Hospital follow a holistic approach to identify and address underlying causes and provide customized treatment plans.
Lymphedema is a condition in which the body's soft tissues swell up due to the accumulation of lymph fluid in the tissues. Lymph is a clear watery fluid that contains Lymphocytes (antibodies), mainly T lymphocytes and B lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). This fluid flows into the lymph vessels, collecting the lymph from different body parts and then transferring it to the blood vessels.
The swelling in the tissues occurs when there is an obstruction in the lymphatic system (lymph vessels and lymph nodes). This situation arises when lymph in tissues starts accumulating and does not drain out into the lymph vessels. The swelling mainly occurs in the arm and legs but may occur in the other parts of the body like the chest wall, abdomen, genitals, and neck.
Lymphedema occurs when the lymph vessels and lymph nodes do not function properly. The lymph nodes filter the blood. The lymph nodes contain antibodies and white blood cells that fight cancer and other infections of the body. The abnormality in the lymphatic system results in Lymphedema. This abnormality is caused by different factors:
• Cancer treatments involve radiation treatment which may affect the normal functioning of the lymphatic system.
• Post Mastectomy treatment: breast removal surgery post of this kind of surgery it led to develop of Lymphedema in the arm of the same side of surgery.
• Tumors can also block the lymph vessels and obstruct the normal lymph flow through the lymphatic system.
• Infections like cellulitis can cause damage to the soft tissue near lymph vessels which increases the risk of Lymphedema.
• Parasites are also a significant cause of this order that are small enough to be seen with the eye also cause this disorder. These tiny, thread-like parasites and block the lymph vessels resulting in this lymph disorder.
• Plastic surgery: post some of plastic surgeries like liposuction it will develop Lymphedema.
The patient with Lymphedema may experience the following symptoms:
• Swelling in the parts of the body, specifically arms, and legs
• heaviness in the affected body part
• Tightness in the arm or leg
• Hardening of skin and appearance of warts and blisters
• Occasional tingling and burning sensation in the affected body part
• Repeated infection in the arm and legs
The doctors carry out different tests to diagnose the disease to provide a complete treatment of the disease. Following are some diagnosis procedures for Lymphedema:
• Physical exam: A complete physical exam is carried out to find any unusual lumps in the parts of the body that may result in blockage of lymph.
• MRI: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is used for 3D imaging of the affected swollen body part with the help of magnetic waves. This procedure helps the doctor to look closely at the body tissues.
• CT scan: Computerized Tomography (CT) scan provides cross-sectional x-rays of the body part to look for any blockage in the lymph vessels.
• Lymphoscintigraphy: In this diagnosis method, a radioactive substance is injected into the body that flows into the lymphatic system. The movement of this substance is monitored and helps the doctor find blockage in lymph vessels that are causing the swelling.
There is no permanent cure for these disorders. However, the treatment options can help to reduce the swelling and can prevent it from becoming worse. Following treatment options help to reduce the swelling of Lymphedema:
1. Exercise: Your care provider may recommend gentle exercise. The movement of the limbs (hands and legs) during exercise can help drain the fluid from the tissue into the lymph vessels. This also reduces swelling in the affected limb, and eventually helps you to perform your daily activities with ease.
2. Manual lymphatic drainage: A trained physiotherapist carries out a unique massage technique. The professionals gently rub the skin during the massage, which helps move the fluid from the tissues to drain out into the lymph vessels. This technique is a lot different from the general massage we get from a spa. Only trained professionals can perform this technique. This manual lymphatic drainage can help a lot to reduce the swelling in the tissues.
3. Lymphedema Compression device: A pumping device is used to put pressure on the swollen parts of the body. The machine blows up a sleeve in which the swollen limb (hand or leg) is placed. The compression on the body part pushes the fluid into the lymph. This treatment provides relief to the swollen limb.
4. Compression garments: Patients are also recommended to use tight-fitting clothes that can move the fluid out of the tissues that help to decrease the swelling in the limb.
Our board-certified physicians at American Hospital provide diagnosis and treatment of the disease using the state-of-the-art and latest technology. If you are experiencing swelling or heaviness in your hand or leg, this may be a symptom of Lymphedema. Book an appointment with our physiotherapists at American Hospital now by giving a call on the numbers in front of you or fill out the secure form to have a proper diagnosis and treatment of lymphatic disorder.