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Lymphedema – Risk Factors and Symptoms

lymphedema causes

Lymphedema is the swelling of the skin and underlying structures below the skin, due to the accumulation of a fluid called Lymph. Our Lymphatic system circulates protein-rich lymph fluid throughout our body, collecting bacteria, viruses, and waste products, through the lymph, vessels, which lead to lymph nodes. The wastes are then filtered out by the infection-fighting cells, the lymphocytes, that live in the lymph nodes and are finally flushed out from your body.

Due to the damaged lymphatic system, patients with lymphoedema have frequent attacks of infection-causing high fever and severe pain. Patients may be bedridden for several days and normal routine activities become difficult.

Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain the lymph fluid, usually from an arm or leg. Lymphedema may be either primary or secondary.

Primary lymphedema is a congenital condition that is caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body. Symptoms may occur at birth or later in life.

Secondary lymphedema is caused by any condition or procedure that damages the lymph nodes or lymph vessels. The causes include tumour, surgery, post-irradiation fibrosis, infection, filariasis, thyroid disease, obesity, and chronic venous insufficiency.

Risk factors of Lymphedema :

  • The following are the major risk factors for this condition :
  •  Malignancies and/or associated treatments are the major cause of secondary lymphedema in developed countries.
  •  Older age, rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis, slow healing of the skin after surgery.
  •  A tumour that affects or blocks the left lymph duct or lymph nodes or vessels in the neck, chest, underarm, pelvis, or abdomen.
  •  Obesity and postoperative weight gain

Filariasis being a mosquito-borne disease people are only affected in regions with infected mosquitoes. Many mosquito bites over several months to years are needed to get lymphatic filariasis. And therefore, people living for a long time in tropical or subtropical areas where the disease is common are at the greatest risk for infection. The prevalence of the disease is also associated with gender with males getting infected more than females.

Lymphatic Filariasis is caused by infection with the parasitic nematodes and is transmitted through mosquitoes. Not all people infected with lymphatic Filariasis develop lymphedema but when they do the swelling can be so severe, and the skin changes so discernibly, it is called ‘elephantiasis.’ Lymphoedema patients, predominantly villagers get an infection due to their prolonged exposure to open spaces, green lands, and small canals, which are the major reservoirs of the mosquito vector.

Lymphedema symptoms :

In the initial stages, Lymphedema resembles general oedema and can be misinterpreted as general swelling or oedema. During the beginning stages, pitting is clear, the skin is soft, and limb elevation assists in resolving oedema. In the later stages, pitting ceases to be visible, the skin hardens, and limb elevation does not reduce the swelling.

Major symptoms include :

  • Nontender, pitting oedema of the affected area
  • Inability to pinch a fold of skin at the root
  • swelling in the extremities including the arms, hands, legs, feet
  • swelling proximally in the breast, chest, shoulder, pelvis, groin, genitals, face
  • restricted range of motion in the joints because of swelling and tissue changes
  • skin discolouration
  • pain and altered sensation
  • limb heaviness

If you have any such symptoms, call your doctor without delay for a thorough evaluation. Our doctors at Avis Vascular centre offer treatment options for the condition based on your medical history.

Lymphedema Treatment In Hyderabad 

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