What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is the accumulation of lymph fluid that collects outside of the lymphatic channels of the Lymphatic System.
The Lymphatic System is an organ system which is part of the immune system and complementary to the circulatory system. It is made up of a large network of lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, lymphatic organs, lymphoid tissues, and lymph fluid that contains lymphocytes to help fight bacteria and infections.
According to The Lymphatic Network it has been estimated that 10 million Americans and 200 million people worldwide suffer from lymphedema and lymphatic diseases. More people suffer from these diseases in the United States than Multiple sclerosis, Muscular Dystrophy, ALS, Parkinson’s Disease and Aids combined.
The system's vessels are often compromised or damaged after surgeries, breast cancer surgery, melanoma surgery, the removal of lymph nodes and radiation. 2 out of 5 breast cancer patients will develop lymphedema within 5 years of surgery. The CDC states the main cause of lymphedema outside of the United States is lymphatic Filariasis. A parasitic disease which is spread by mosquito bites that deposit three species of microscopic, thread like worms that live in the lymphatic system.
Symptoms of lymphedema may include enfeeble swelling tissue of either upper or lower extremities due to fluid buildup. Skin tone, form of extremities may change, pitting edema, swelling with the addition of infections can also occur.
There is no known cure for lymphedema. It can however be effectively treated by a Certified Lymphatic Therapist using compression therapy, Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and other modalities.