Lymphedema and physical therapy

Lymphedema is a complex of two words lymph and edema. Lymph is a fluid that contains b lymphocytes and t lymphocytes and is responsible for immunity in our body. Edema simply means swelling so we can say lymphedema is swelling because of lymph fluid in our body. In this condition, lymph fluid drains into the soft tissue of the body which leads to swelling of a different part of the body, especially the arms and legs. It can be swear or less depending on the retention of lymph fluid in soft tissue.
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Causes of lymphedema

Lymphedema is a multifactorial disease and several factors lead to retention of lymph in soft tissues of the body some of the most common causes are

  • Cancer is one of the most common causes of lymphedema. In almost 90% of cases after breast Cancer surgery and radiation and chemotherapy treatment, a patient complains of lymphedema. This is because when lymph nodes are removed during breast cancer surgery the lymph nodes pathway is damaged. Radiation can also cause skin inflammation which reduces the ability of the skin to stretch and lead to lymphedema
  • Chemotherapy treatments can cause scarring of the skin and lymphatic vessels damage which can lead to lymphedema
  • The lymphatic system is very close to our skin. Trauma to the skin can easily damage lymph nodes and lymphatic vessels leading to disruption of lymphatic flow and lymphedema.
  • Obesity is also one of the common causes of lymphedema. Excessive fat layers in our body press against the lymph vessels disrupting their normal flow and leading to lymph retention
  • Cardiovascular disorders and kidney disorders are also one of the leading causes of lymph retention in soft tissues
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As discussed earlier it is a condition in which excessive lymph fluid  in soft tissue so its symptoms are

  • Swelling of arms and legs and excessive swelling of other organs if left untreated
  • A feeling of heaviness in arms and legs
  • Tightness when wearing jewelry
  • Thickening of skin and a feeling of itch and burn in the skin
  • Puffiness of skin
  • Difficulty to spot arteries and veins in the skin which are spotted normally

How physical therapy can help

A physical therapist is an important member of the medical team for the treatment of lymphedema in the early stages of lymphedema a physical therapist can use techniques such as compression, tight clothes, and raising upper and lower limbs to normalize the flow of lymphedema. For more complex and swear lymphedema physical therapists will develop a set of treatments including massage and compression techniques, different exercises manual lymphatic drainage, and a set of instructions to protect your skin from damage.

A physical therapist has a very essential role in normalizing the blood flow and lymphatic drainage in your body and altering the damage caused by lymphedema so make sure you follow the instructions given by your physical therapist.
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