Friday, January 14, 2022
Swelling that begins in the arm or leg; feeling of heaviness in any of those limbs; discomfort or pain; tension, shine, warmth, or redness of the skin.
These are all signs that can draw attention to lymphedema, a condition that occurs when the lymphatic vessels are unable to adequately drain lymphatic fluid, usually from an arm or leg.
It is also a condition that can be aggravated by factors that are frequent in these times when many have not yet returned to their normal pre-pandemic life and have not yet resumed their physical activity routines. “The sedentary lifestyle associated with the home office increases the problem. And the weight gain that is also generated significantly aggravates this condition and deteriorates the lymphatic system”, warned Dr. Mabel Bussati (MN 57716), specialist in Phlebology and Lymphology and honorary doctor of the Phlebology and Lymphology sector of the Hospital de Clinics of the City of Buenos Aires.
SYMPTOMS TO PAY ATTENTION TO
The most common symptoms of lymphedema, which appear in the affected arm or leg, are: swelling of all or part of the arm or leg, including the fingers and toes; feeling of heaviness or stiffness; limited range of motion; pain or discomfort; recurrent infections; and hardening and thickening of the skin.
CAUSES AND TREATMENTS
In most cases, lymphedema is a disorder that appears secondary to other conditions that impact the proper functioning of the lymphatic system, and that results in the accumulation of protein-rich fluid in an area of the body that sees increased its volume. The lymphatic system is responsible for maintaining the circulation of lymph throughout the body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste, and transporting them to the lymph nodes, where they are filtered by lymphocytes, for their subsequent elimination.
Although it usually affects the upper or lower limbs, lymphedema can also occur on the trunk, abdomen, face and/or genitals. “Once installed, its course is slow and progressive, it is a chronic condition that, without adequate treatment, evolves into disabling forms and affects the social, psychological, work and family life of those who suffer from it”, pointed out Dr. Bussati.
ALTER QUALITY OF LIFE
It is essential to keep in mind that lymphedema is not a mere aesthetic problem. But a chronic disease that can affect the quality of life of those who suffer from it. “There is an alteration in the self-image of the patients, who cannot, for example, dress in the same way, they feel heaviness and lack of mobility. This causes a change in the rhythm of family and daily life, generating states of depression and anxiety in patients. This, added to social isolation, produces a great impact on the quality of life of patients with lymphedema”, indicated the specialist.
THE IMPORTANCE OF HERITAGE
In some cases, lymphedema can even respond to hereditary factors, manifesting itself in both adult and pediatric age. “Perhaps it is a predisposition that they brought with birth and never became visible until there came a time in life when, either due to a certain disease or due to trauma such as a fall, they begin to inflame and swell a part of the body and there we discovered that it had been brought from birth and that for a reason X the balance was broken and it began to manifest itself clinically”, explained Dr. Bussati.
THE KEYS TO THE TREATMENT
Like any chronic disease, lymphedema has no cure, but there is treatment. “There are different treatments for lymphedema, with the aim of reducing the size of the limb and the affected tissue: manual lymphatic drainage medical therapy; compressions, which vary according to the stage of the disease; physical exercises to mobilize the affected areas and, in addition, pharmacological treatment, medications that act at the microcirculation level and are essential to reduce symptoms,” added the specialist.
Among the different measures that collaborate with the management of the disease are avoiding a sedentary lifestyle and being overweight, massaging the legs regularly, avoiding sources of heat, wearing appropriate clothing and comfortable high-heeled shoes.