What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a highly under-diagnosed condition that affects the lymphatic vessels, which are responsible for transporting protein-rich lymph fluid back into the circulatory system. Lymph fluid contains white blood cells (that help to fight infection), proteins, fatty acids, water. When lymph vessels are unable to transport this fluid properly, a build-up occurs, resulting in swelling and the thickening of the skin.

There are two types of lymphedema: primary lymphedema and secondary lymphedema.

Some people are born with a faulty lymphatic system; it may be inherited or can occur as the fetus develops. When lymphedema is caused by a defect of the lymphatic system, it is called primary lymphedema. It may be present at birth, develop when puberty begins or in adulthood.

Other people develop lymphedema due to an event that damages or blocks part of their lymphatic system. In this case, it is called secondary lymphedema. The most common cause of secondary lymphedema is the result of treatment for some cancers. Other causes of damage to the lymphatic system include trauma caused by an accident, injury or a burn." Alberta Lymphedema Association"

Who is at risk?

If you have had a mastectomy, lumpectomy, radiation treatment, lymph node removal, surgeries, infections, or trauma to the limbs, you may be at risk for developing lymphedema.

How can I tell if I have lymphedema?

A common indicator of lymphedema is indentations that do not immediately disappear after the skin has been depressed by the hand or fingers. This condition is usually found in the legs and arms; however, lymphedema can affect any region of the body. Many people with lymphedema are labeled over-weight, yet lymphedema is not about fat storage.

The Lymphatic System

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What are the Early Signs of Lymphedema

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Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD)

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