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Definition Of Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a disease, all other edema are symptoms. Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of protein – rich fluid in the interstitium, which causes chronic inflammation and reactive fibrosis of the affected tissues.

Lymphedema is the swelling of the body part, most often the extremities. It can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen or genitals. Lymphedema is classified as either Primary (born with usually lymphatic dysplasia -Undeveloped),or Secondary lymphedema is much more common as result of surgery or the side effects of radiation therapy for cancer

Treatment Of Lymphedema Offered Up To Date

Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD)

MLD is a gentle manual technique; it is a potent way to activate the lymphatic system, especially when the transport capacity of the lymph system is reduced. If MLD is carried out as an isolated treatment for lymphedema, the results may be very temporary and lasting evacuation of lymph fluid from a congested (swollen) limb will not be possible. MLD alone may be used with much success in many conditions unrelated to lymphedema.

Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)

CDT is the most successful treatment for chronic extremity lymphedema. Post mastectomy lymphedema and other related conditions respond extremely well to this gentle, non-invasive and highly effective therapy. CDT is sometimes referred to as Complete Decongestive Physiotherapy (CDP) or Complex Decongestive Physiotherapy.


Surgical procedures are sometimes suggested as a primary form of treatment to lymphedema patients. Indeed, dozens of operations have been devised and thousands have been carried out over the past century. It is safe to say that surgeries for lymphedema treatment have not been shown to give consistent, dependable or lasting results. In addition, any surgery performed on the lymphedematous (swollen) extremity may further reduce the transport capacity of the already impaired lymphatic system.


Diuretics, often prescribed, usually make the lymphedema worse. Diuretics are able to draw off the water content of the edema while the protein molecules remain in the tissue spaces. These proteins continue to draw water to the edematous areas as soon as the diuretic loses its effectiveness. These accumulated proteins also lead to a higher concentration of proteins in the edema fluid and cause the tissues to become even more fibrotic and indurated.

Pump Therapy

The pneumatic compression pump is a mechanical device that “milks” the lymph fluid out of the swollen extremity. Traditional pump therapy, for instance, disregards the fact that the ipsilateral trunk quadrant is also congested or lymphedematous. Hence, lymph fluid that is pumped into the trunk quadrant adjacent to the lymphedematous extremity will create congestion, connective and scar tissue deposition and induration (hardening) at the root of the extremity. In lower extremity lymphedema, extensive pumping may cause genital lymphedema, which will not only create more physical difficulties but also immense psychological problems for the patient. In addition, pumps do nothing to eliminate scar and connective tissue which always exist in stage II and III lymphedema. In most cases, the lymphedema returns the moment the patient stops using the compression pump.

GET ON TRACK Recommendation for Lymphedema Patient / Keeping it in Check

Avoid Extreme Temperatures:

  • Travelling in hot or cold climates
  • Hot showers, saunas, hot tubs

Avoid Infections:

  • Skin punctures and cuts
  • Pet scratches
  • Insect bites
  • No vaccinations, injection or
    acupuncture on affected limb

Avoid Trauma:

  • Tennis or golf
  • Tight clothing, especially bra straps
  • Lifting heavy objects
  • Rings, watches, brace lets
  • Blood pressure cuffs

General Precautions:

  • Avoid obesity
  • Sleep with elevated limb
  • Excellent nutrition – low salt, few fried
    foods, lots of fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Meticulous cleanliness
  • Meticulous skin and nail care
  • Travel with limb elevated
  • Treat infections vigorously
  • Exercise – walking, swimming and
    physiotherapist prescribed exercises
  • Seek treatment for even the slightest