A properly functioning lymphatic system is responsible for filtering harmful bacteria from the tissues and is an important part of your immune system. Lymph fluid is transported through the body with the help of lymph nodes.
In simple terms, lymphedema develops as a result of damage to the lymphatic system (most commonly damage to, or removal of, the lymph nodes); often as a result of cancer management. This prevents the lymphatic fluid from moving through that part of the body properly, essentially causing a backlog of fluid and therefore an inability for your body to remove the harmful bacteria and toxins. This often results in swollen, heavy, uncomfortable limbs.
- Fluid-filled arms, legs, and/or hands
- Skin that is itchy or tight
- Changes in skin texture
- The touch of clothes or jewelry can be uncomfortable or leave marks on your skin
- For those with edema in their legs, it can be painful or difficult to walk
How do I know if I need therapy?
Anyone with swollen limbs can benefit from therapy. Others who may benefit are those who have:
- orthopedic traumas/surgeries
- dependent edema, such as after a stroke
- pregnancy-related edema
Also, anyone who has had surgery for cancer, but has not developed lymphedema can benefit from therapy for risk reduction strategies.
*Lymphedema is often a chronic issue that requires lifelong management, but it CAN BE MANAGED.
Don’t worry; you’re not alone.
According to the Lymphatic Education & Research Network – a nonprofit founded in 1998 to fight lymphatic diseases:
“Up to 10 million Americans, and hundreds of millions worldwide, suffer from lymphedema and lymphatic diseases. More people suffer from these diseases in the United States than suffer from Multiple Sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, ALS, Parkinson’s disease, and AIDS — combined.”
“All cancer treatment survivors, including those of melanoma, prostate and ovarian cancer, are susceptible to developing lymphedema. Breast cancer survivors can be at a high risk for developing lymphedema and 100% of those treated for neck and head cancer will develop the disease. Physical trauma can also result in lymphedema, a major cause of lymphatic disease among our wounded veterans.”