What Is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a failure of the lymphatic system whereby inadequate drainage of fluid and proteins results in the swelling of tissues. This swelling is typically in the arms and legs, however, other areas such as the breast, genitals and gut, can be affected as well.
Who Can Get Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is common in patients who have undergone surgical procedures, removal of lymph nodes or radiation therapy, for the treatment of various cancers such as breast, ovarian, prostate, testicular, bladder, colon, and head and neck cancer, as well as melanomas.
What Are The Symptoms?
As a result of swelling, the affected limb might feel tight and heavy, and there may be pain due to associated nerve injuries, obstruction of veins, and strain on ligaments from the increased limb weight.
What Happens If Lymphedema Is Left Untreated?
If left untreated, there is a risk of loss of limb function as well as chronic infections.
Psychological and Social Effects of Lymphedema
In addition to the physical effects, lymphedema also causes psychological distress on the patient, which can have a profound effect on quality of life. Disfigurement, embarrassment and depression may result in the patient minimizing social interactions with others. Moreover, the physical effects of lymphedema may necessitate a change in lifestyle and activities, further affecting the psychological well-being of the patient.