Characteristics: The most noticeable characteristic of lymphedema is tightness and heaviness of the limbs. With this tightness and heaviness usually comes fits of aching and discomfort, restricted motion, and swelling of said limb(s). Pain coming with lymphedema is usually not lengthy. While most inflammatory responses have discoloration of skin or abnormal temperature, lymphedema infected areas do not normally show either. Lymphedema usually causes symptoms of swelling on one half of the body. The characteristics of lymphedema are easily recognized, which is good because lymphedema needs to be detected and treated promptly or it could escalate into a more serious infection.
Causes: Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to drain lymph fluid, usually from an arm or a leg. Lymphedema can occur on its own, which is known as primary lymphedema, or can occur due to another disease or condition, which is known as secondary lymphedema, and is far more common. One cause of secondary lymphedema is surgery- if you get any lymph nodes removed from your body and your other lymph nodes can’t compensate for the missing one(s), secondary lymphedema may occur. Radiation treatment for cancer may inflame lymph nodes and restrict lymph fluids, causing secondary lymphedema. Another cause is when lymph fluids are blocked due to cancer cells blocking lymphatic vessels and infection causing swelling and blocking of lymphatic vessels. Primary lymphedema is caused from diseases such as Milroy’s disease and Meige’s disease.
Signs/Symptoms: Signs and symptoms of lymphedema are the same. They include swelling of some or part of your leg, arm, fingers, or toes, heaviness or tightness in your arm or leg, restricted range of motion in your arm or leg, aching or discomfort in your arm or leg, and reoccurring infections in arm or leg.
Diagnosis: Your doctor may diagnose you with lymphedema based on your signs and symptoms, since lymphedema is relatively easy to recognize and diagnose. If the cause of lymphedema in you isn’t obvious, your doctor may call for testing of your lymphatic system through imaging techniques such as MRI’s, CT scans, ultrasounds, and a lymphoscintigraphy.
Treatment: The goal of lymphedema treatment is to control the