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The mystery of Lymphoedema

Some days you have it and then the next day you don’t.  Do you have Lymphoedema or do you not? That is the question.

  • some Doctors say live with it
  • some give you diuretics
  • some say it runs in the family – that can be true.
  • what is happening to the limb that gets more swollen and tight in hot weather,  then in cold weather you feel normal again
  • you have a busy day, sitting in a car or plane all day and up puff  the ankles
  • if you rest your feet up the wall for 20 minutes, the swelling subsides

Is this Lymphoedema?

Poor skin care on Lymphoedema foot
Poor skin care on Lymphoedema foot

It is the swelling of a body part. Most often an extremity caused by abnormal accumulation of lymph fluid.  Although it is a chronic and progressive condition it can be brought under control when the patient is compliant and the therapist is properly trained.

Is it going to happen to me?

  1. If your mother, auntie or grandmother had fat ankles, then yes there is a chances that Primary lymphoedema runs in the family (Genetic). This could mean that you or your daughters may develop the condition. It does not mean you will have the severity of “ fat” ankles they had.  Science has advanced and this condition can be managed. It is being aware of it and taking preventative action. FACT: It is more prevalent in women than men
Lymphoedema of the foot. Note indentations after compression removed.
Lymphoedema of the foot. Note indentations after compression removed.

The family Doctor needs to recognize it, recommend regular Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) treatments and prescribe wearing compression garments.

Primary Lymphoedema is a condition with which you are born. It can develop at any stage due to the genetic disposition of a compromised lymph system that runs in the family. It can trigger at any stage from birth, at adolescence, during pregnancy, menopause or an incident (a serious accident involving a limb, severe sunburn, leech bite, an insect or  spider bite etc)

Secondary Lymphpoedema is caused by intervention through surgery, injury, radiation, removal of the lymph nodes even vein stripping.

  1. If you have had cancer and had lymph nodes removed from the neck, under the arm, pelvis, groin or abdomen and had radiotherapy post surgery, you may develop symptoms of lymphoedema.  This is called Secondary Lymphoedema.  Such treatments are common with breast, uterus, bladder, ovary , prostate or testicle cancer.

3) If you have had trauma to or chronic infection of the lymph system you may develop secondary Lymphoedema

4) If you have spent time in a third world country and been exposed to the parasite , nematode worm. Through bites from mosquitoes the larvae are transmitted to humans, where they develop in the lymph system blocking it. This disease is endemic in subtropical and tropical regions affecting more than 45 million people in India alone. This is Lymphoedema by Philaraises. This more than often develops into elephantitis because of the lack of medical support in these very poor communities.

What may I feel?

  • Swelling that comes and goes with exercise or other physical activity or in hot humid weather
  • Feeling of heaviness and fullness especially after a flight or standing all day
  • Tension in the limb as if bursting
  •  Deformity of the affected body part (swelling)
  •  Tingling may occur
  • Light discomfort / pain in the early stages progressing to sever discomfort with additional pain as the condition remains untreated
  • Restricted movement and stiffness
  • Clothing and footwear feeling  tighter than normal
  • The ongoing effect of the condition is tiring and can lead to depression and anxiety
  • Pins and needles
  • Redness and a sensation of heat
  • Numbness
  • Tightness of the skin

Possible side effects of untreated Lymhoedema

  1. Great discomfort
  2. Becoming more and more immobile
  3. Repeated episodes of infection (cellulitis and lymphangioitis)
  4. Malignant degeneration is rare but does happen when lymphedema goes untreated
  5. Elephantitis

 Not all swelling is Lymhoedema or is it?

No, all swelling is not lymphedema. A sprained ankle is not Lymphoedema. It is best if you have swollen limbs that come and go to consult with your GP.  GP’S do not diagnose this condition. They most often give a script for diuretics. This is not helpful. Often they do not recommend a specialist MLD therapist. Go out and find your nearest certified Dr. Vodder Therapist for an appointment. If you are worried and want a formal diagnosis to ask your doctor for a referral for a lymphoscintigraphy. This will map your lymphatic system and show any problem that might be there.

Tip: Do not let the swelling go untreated for any length of time. It is not normal. Something is out of balance.

 LymphoMation – “What your doctor did not tell you about lymphoedema?”

 Part One: Introduction to Lymphoedema. This is an ongoing e-book series to help you take charge of their health naturally. Click this link to order Part One now.

Part two: Lympho-What? Click this link to order part two now

Other pages of interest:

“We must shift from patient dependence to patient independence”

Prof. Neil Piller

Take charge of your health naturally