Lymphedema involves the buildup of lymph in the tissues which results to swelling. If the lymphatic vessels are damaged or obstructed, the lymph fluid could not drain and accumulates in the tissues which results to swelling.
This results once the lymphatic system could not properly drain lymph from the tissues, resulting to swelling. There are 2 forms of lymphedema – congenital (present at birth) and acquired or secondary.
Close look on congenital lymphedema
There are various inherited conditions that can cause congenital lymphedema. These conditions vary based on the age in which swelling becomes evident. The condition typically affects the legs and rarely the arms. Women are more likely than men to develop this type.
In rare circumstances, the inflammation is evident at birth but typically, the lymphatic vessels can cope with the minimal amount of lymph generated in an infant. Most frequently, the swelling manifests later in life as the amount of lymph increases and overpowers the small number of lymph vessels.
The swelling begins in a gradual manner in one or both legs. The initial sign of lymphedema might be puffiness of the foot that makes the shoe feel tight at the end of the day. The shoe might leave behind indentations in the skin of the foot. In the early stages of congenital lymphedema, the swelling subsides once the leg is elevated. Remember that this condition worsens over time. The swelling becomes more evident and does not fully vanish even after a night’s rest.
How is it diagnosed
In most cases, lymphedema is diagnosed based on the symptoms of the individual. Oftentimes, an imaging test such as CT scan, ultrasound or MRI is required to determine the location of the blockage.
Always bear in mind that lymphedema has no cure. Among those who have mild lymphedema, the compression stockings are used on the legs or sleeves or placed on the arms to minimize the swelling.
Those who have significant swelling might be required to use intermittent pneumatic compression stockings daily for several hours depending on the severity of the symptoms to minimize the swelling.
When the swelling has reduced, the individual should use graduated elastic stockings all the way up to the knee or thigh on a daily basis upon waking up until bedtime. These stockings work by applying pressure at the ankle and less pressure farther up the leg. This pressure regulates the swelling to a certain degree.
If the arm is affected, pneumatic sleeves can be utilized daily to minimize the swelling. In some cases, elastic sleeves can also be used.