Lymphedema is a chronic disease that develops when the lymphatic system doesn’t drain properly, allowing excess lymph fluid to build up in your tissues. As fluid accumulates, it leads to severe swelling, along with skin and tissue damage that can cause serious, life-threatening complications.
Lymphedema can have genetic causes (primary lymphedema) or it can be acquired later in life (secondary lymphedema), usually as a result of damage to the lymph system.
In the United States, radiation therapy for cancer is a leading cause of lymphedema. Obesity can also cause lymphedema, usually restricted to the legs.
Although there is no cure for lymphedema, it can be managed. The key is understanding what steps to take to keep swelling under control and help prevent tissue damage.
At Phoenix Heart, PLLC, our team offers advanced therapies for lymphedema in patients from Glendale, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Anthem, Avondale, Laveen Village, and Black Canyon City, Arizona. Take a moment to learn what you can do to help manage your lymphedema symptoms.
Get plenty of exercise
Exercise causes your muscles to contract, providing a little extra help to keep lymph fluid draining. Always ask our team about proper exercises so you can reap the benefits and reduce potential risks.
Elevate your limbs
It always feels good to put your feet up after a long day, but if you have lymphedema, elevating your feet and legs is even more important. By keeping your legs above the level of your heart, you encourage better lymphatic drainage, moving fluids away from your legs and feet and back toward your torso.
Drinking water throughout the day helps maintain a healthy lymph system. Ask our team to recommend an ideal daily fluid intake for you to avoid additional swelling.
Avoid restrictive clothing
Tight clothing can restrict drainage further, increasing swelling and discomfort, along with your risk of complications. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothing and avoid wearing skin tight jewelry on your arms and legs.
Take care of your skin
Since lymphedema can cause your skin to break down, it’s important to take extra steps to protect your skin. Bathe frequently using a mild soap, and use moisturizer to keep your skin supple. If you develop a cut or other injury on an affected limb, keep a close eye on it for signs of infection.
Maintain a healthy weight
Extra pounds place added pressure on your lymph system, making your symptoms worse. Maintaining a healthy weight is good for your lymph system, and it can help your body fight off infections and other potential problems.
Watch your sodium intake
Sodium causes your tissues to retain fluids. Limit sodium intake by carefully reading food labels and sticking to whole, natural foods when possible.
Ask about compression garments
Prescription compression garments or bandages provide gentle, graduated pressure to help keep lymph fluid draining. Some patients benefit from pneumatic compression that uses an air pump to alternate compression levels in the affected limb.
In addition to lifestyle changes, our team offers medical treatments tailored to your specific needs.
Manual lymph drainage
Manual lymph drainage uses a special massage technique to help gently move trapped lymph fluid out of the swollen area and into an area where the lymph system is draining properly. This type of therapy isn’t a good choice for anyone who has an infection, active cancer, or blood clots in the affected area.
For more severe cases that resist conservative management, our team may recommend surgery.
Depending on your specific needs, your surgery might focus on creating new lymph drainage pathways, removing fibrous tissue that interferes with lymph drainage, or transplanting nodes from one part of your body to the affected area.
While medications can’t cure lymphedema, they may help relieve its symptoms. Our team may also prescribe antibiotics to treat skin infections as soon as they emerge.
Help for lymphedema
Because lymphedema is a chronic disease, you need to remain vigilant about lifestyle changes and medical care to help keep your symptoms under control. To learn how we can help, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.