Lymphedema is a chronic condition brought about by cancer treatment in many individuals. Its most common symptom is swelling of one or more of your extremities, such as leg(s) or arm(s). Swelling can also appear in lymph nodes in the neck, head or genital area. Our skilled vascular surgeon, Dr. Chris Pittman, helps patients manage the condition with personalized lymphedema treatment at our Tampa vein treatment center.
Lymph node removal or damage, as part of (or a side effect of) cancer therapies is common. Lymphedema is more likely to occur in older patients who are overweight and/or have rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis. In some cases, impaired lymphatic function is inherited.
Lymph glands (or nodes) are a part of your body’s immune system, connected throughout the body by the lymph vessels of your circulatory system. The lymphatic system acts as a filter of cancer cells and foreign particles in your body. Lymph nodes can become swollen and tender with a variety of illnesses, from strep throat to cancer.
Lymphosites (white blood cells within the lymph nodes) produce antibodies to fight various types of illness detected in the filtering process. Oncologists often stage a cancer diagnosis by evaluating the degree to which cancer has affected local lymph nodes (metastasised).
Although lymphedema is incurable, it can be managed to improve your quality of life by decreasing discomfort and inflammation of the affected extremity. Here, Dr. Chris Pittman, Medical Director and CEO of Vein911 outlines your lymphedema treatment options, which include:
Vein911 is a leading vein treatment center in the Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg area. The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce recently named Vein911 a semi-finalist for the Small Business of the Year Award for 2017. Our vein doctor provides advanced medical and cosmetic vein treatments.
If you’d like to know more about lymphedema causes, or you’re seeking expert lymphedema treatment here in Tampa, contact Vein911 online, or call us at 855-396-9911 today.
Lymphedema is chronic swelling in the arms or legs caused by damage to the lymphatic system. One of those conditions that can’t be cured, it must be managed with conservative treatments to prevent complications like skin breakdown or infections. Here are the basics about lymphedema from Dr. Chris Pittman of Vein 911 in Tampa, Florida.
If you break down the word, it becomes lymph and edema. Lymph refers to the clear fluid that circulates through the body outside of the blood vessels through channels that make up the lymphatic system. Edema is simply another word for swelling. It is most likely to occur after cancer treatment or surgery in which the lymph nodes are damaged or removed. The normal drainage channels are blocked or destroyed, and the lymph cannot drain properly, so it builds up in the tissues. Being older, overweight or obese or having rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis can increase the risk of lymphedema.
Swelling is the cardinal sign of lymphedema. It can include part or all of an arm or leg. You may have a sensation of fullness, tightness or feel as though the affected limb is heavy. Some people notice aching or discomfort, or have restricted range of motion. The skin may become hardened or thick (fibrosis). The affected limb is subject to recurring infections (the lymphatic tissues are part of the immune system). If untreated, lymphedema can sometimes result in a rare form of cancer called lymphangiosarcoma. Lymphedema can occur on its own (primary) or as the result of another condition like cancer or surgery (secondary).
It’s important to keep the affected limb elevated as much as possible to promote drainage. Gentle exercises can also promote lymph drainage. Heating pads can cause burns and should be avoided, as the skin is less sensitive to temperature changes. It’s important to moisturize the skin daily to help keep it supple and prevent cracking that could lead to an infection. Inspect the skin every day for signs of injuries and protect it from injury. Lifestyle changes such as weight loss, stress reduction and regular exercise may be helpful in some cases.
Compression stockings or sleeves can help promote drainage and prevent increased swelling. These must be properly fitted by a trained individual who will measure the affected limb and order the correct stocking or sleeve. Pneumatic compression takes this a step farther by connecting a pump to an inflatable sleeve or stocking. A certified lymphedema therapist can teach you special exercises and massage therapists who are trained in lymphatic massage can help promote lymph drainage. Your doctor must prescribe these treatments in most cases in order for your insurance to pay for them.
With proper medical management and care, lymphedema can be managed successfully. If you have questions or suspect you have lymphedema, please contact us.