But first things first. Today, I'm kicking this series off with a basic overview of:
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is swelling (edema) caused by the abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid in the fatty tissues just beneath the skin, most often in an arm or leg. However, this condition can also affect the face, neck, chest, breast, abdomen, groin and lung.
Primary & Secondary Lymphedema
Diagnoses of Lymphedema are characterized as either primary or secondary.
Primary Lymphedema occurs in people born with a malformed lymphatic system, and may appear soon after birth or occur later in life. Primary lymphedema always begins in the legs and feet, moving upward to other parts of the body as the condition progresses. This type of lymphedema is relatively rare.
Secondary Lymphedema, is the result of damage to the lymphatic system, via injury, scarring or removal of the lymph nodes. Previous radiation and/or surgery of the lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, pelvis or groin – during the treatment of cancers of the breast, uterus, bladder, ovary, prostate or testicles, as well as malignant melanomas, sarcomas and lymphomas – are common causes. Notably, traumatic injury, chronic infection cycles, and severe chronic venous insufficiency may also bring on the condition.
How To Recognize the Onset of Lymphedema
Individuals living with primary lymphedema who do not develop the condition at birth, may notice the condition come on with no obvious cause or after a traumatic injury. In secondary cases, lymphedema may develop within a few months after a procedure, years later, or not at all. Initially the symptoms may come and go, with “pitting” being the first obvious sign of the condition. Pitting is an indentation in the skin that does not immediately disappear if the skin is depressed for a few seconds. Other signs include:
That's all for now. Check back in two weeks, for the next edition of my Understanding Lymphedema series. Next post topic: What to do when you experience Lymphedema Symptoms and Treatment protocols.