Is there a lymphedema Cure?
Lymphedema is a condition resulting from the malfunctioning of the lymphatic system, which may happen due to the removal or damage to the lymph nodes and lymph vessels. It is a condition where swelling occurs due to the pooling of fluids in a certain area of the body, particularly the legs or arms. Till today, it is impossible to cure lymphedema; however, with the proper therapy it is possible to manage the condition.
Primary lymphedema may be caused due to hereditary factors relating to the genetic makeup of the individual. Cases of primary lymphedema are rare; what is commonly seen is secondary lymphedema, which is usually an acquired condition. Very often, it is the side-effect of surgery involving an injury to the lymphatic system of the body, like in case of cancer treatment. Most cancer patients, particularly women who have been treated for breast cancer are high risk candidates for secondary lymphedema. Usually the lymph vessels or nodes may be removed for treating cancer of the groin, abdomen or the breast. In such situations, there is an obstruction to the smooth flow of the lymph from the extremities of the body towards the trunk region causing a pooling effect leading to swelling. To cure lymphedema would mean rebuilding a healthy lymphatic system, which is not humanly possible. Hence, patients have to make do with treatments that can control the condition.
The most accepted form of treatment for lymphedema is known as the Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT). It consists of manual lymph drainage, compression bandaging and use of compression garments, exercises and skin care. The first step in this medical treatment program is a visit to the lymphedema therapist who performs a gentle massage to direct the flow of the lymphatic fluids towards the blood circulatory system. The impurities in the body and excess fluids are then eliminated through urination. This massage reduces the swelling in the affected part and to maintain this reduction or to prevent the return of swelling, compression bandages must be applied to the affected limb. Exercises help to keep the fluids moving within the system, thus preventing edema. The other aspect lymphedema patients must keep in mind is skin care. Those suffering from lymphedema are prone to skin infections due to a weak immune system. Keeping the skin meticulously clean and using lotions to keep it soft helps to prevent infections.
Lymphedema following surgery can be prevented with certain precautions or at least the progress can be slowed. However, if the initial symptoms are ignored, the condition may worsen and curing lymphedema symptoms may be difficult. High risk candidates must therefore remain alert to any signs of lymphedema and try to avoid injuries, cuts and bruises of any kind. The skin should be kept soft and lubricated with creams and lotion. It is imperative to protect the fingers and be extra careful while cutting the finger nails. Blood pressure monitoring of the arm or drawing of blood from the surgical side of the body should be avoided.
There is no cure for lymphedema; on the contrary, long term effects of the condition may be really severe. Some of them include extreme pain, weight gain, depression, continuous swelling and repeated skin infections. If left untreated or the initial symptoms of lymphedema are ignored, fibrosis or hardening of the tissues may set in. This may lead to further complications like blood clots in the affected limb. Thus, in order to avoid any such problems it is advisable to recognize the symptoms and consult the doctor during the early stages. This could be the only option, but hopefully, continuing research on the subject may find a cure for lymphedema in future.
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