Differences between Edema and Lymph Edema
Although edema and lymph edema involve swelling, there are major differences in both these conditions. The causes and treatments for each vary greatly. Edema is the retention of fluids in the tissues, usually the body’s response to an injury. As the body heals, the excess fluid moves out of the area and the swelling goes down. Lymph edema on the other hand is a swelling of an extremity caused due to an injury to the lymphatic system. Surgery or removal of lymph nodes leads to an injury due to which the lymphatic system is unable to drain the fluids properly.
Edema is usually a symptom of some underlying ailment like heart disease, kidney disease or liver disease. Most often, it is caused due to retention of salt, because the body cannot process and eliminate the salt easily. Edema is seen mostly on the legs, but it can occur in the chest area, in the lungs and the abdomen. Edema caused due to heart failure is known as pulmonary edema which can sometimes be life –threatening. lymphedema is acquired as a result of surgery for cancer, although primary lymphedema is the result of genetic factors that prevent the development of the lymphatic system.
The treatment for edema is often a simple change in diet, which is to reduce the salt intake. In case of severe edema, diuretics may be prescribed to drain of the excess fluids along with the salts. In some cases, bed rest and elevation of the feet for half an hour every day can take care of the ailment, while in some instances the edema resolves itself. Lymph edema treatment on the other hand involves a complex therapy known as Complete Decongestive Therapy that consists of a lymphatic massage for drainage of fluids, compression bandaging and an exercise regimen. There is no single medicine to take care of lymphedema and there is no cure either. The condition can only be managed with therapy.
Lymphedema, once developed, remains for life. The patient has to undergo therapy to reduce the swelling and once the swelling is reduced, he or she has to use compression garments to maintain the reduction of the limb and prevent the fluids from accumulating. To maintain the flexibility of the limbs and to stimulate the lymphatic flow, the patient has to exercise regularly. Since the lymphatic system is linked to the immune system, its weakening also weakens the immunity of the patient, thus leaving him or her vulnerable to infections. Edema is usually a temporary condition which can be treated easily by treating the underlying causes.
Trained therapists usually perform the massage for lymph edema patients. Edema can be treated easily at home, except in cases of chronic problems like pulmonary edema where immediate treatment from the doctor is very important to take care of the situation in time. Lymphedema patients have a delicate state of health because their immune system is compromised and they are more vulnerable to other ailments which can take a turn for the worse if not treated in the early stages.
Lymphedema Clinic | Winship