Lymphedema is a condition where fluid collects in a certain area or areas of the body, most often in soft tissue of the arm(s) or leg(s). There are two forms: primary (an hereditary condition) and secondary (caused by non-hereditary factors).
Symptoms for this condition include:
- Decreased flexibility in the wrist or ankle
- Rings or shoes becoming tight-fitting
- Uncomfortable limbs, with feelings such as:
Risk Factors for Lymphedema
Primary lymphedema is hereditary. Secondary lymphedema is caused by an injury to the lymphatic system. This damage can be caused by cancer treatments, vein stripping, surgery on blood vessels in the limbs, surgical removal of fatty tissue, or burns.
For those patients who know they are at risk for the condition, there are many things that they can do to prevent it, or to keep a mild case from getting worse. It is vital to keep the affected limb clean, dry, and moisturized. Wearing protective gloves while cooking or working in the garden or other activities that require heavy use of hands is also a good idea. It is best for these patients to use electric razors as opposed to manual ones. Patients at risk for this condition should not leave their feet uncovered when walking around. Finally, simple measures such as not crossing the legs when sitting or carrying a purse or bag with an affected arm go a long way to preventing and/or treating the condition.
There are no medical treatments for lymphedema at this time, but more severe cases can be treated with draining procedures or the use of compression socks.