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Lymphedema

lymphedemaLymphedema is localized swelling of arms and legs that develops when the lymph vessels are blocked or unable to drain fluid away due to damage or dysfunction of the lymphatic system. Left untreated, lymphedema can cause serious complications. So it is extremely important that the patient receives effective and consistent treatment.

Sequential compression therapy through Lympha Press, is a promising method of treatment for moderate to severe lymphedema. The pressure and release cycle encourages emptying and refill of the lymphatic, while the directional compression promotes the flow of lymph upward towards the torso and assists the lymphatic fluid in finding its way around the blockage to healthy lymphatic channels.

Lymphedema may be inherited (primary) or caused by injury to the lymphatic vessels (secondary). It is most frequently seen after lymph node dissection, in which damage to the lymphatic system is caused during the treatment of cancer, most notably breast cancer. In many patients with cancer, this condition does not develop until months or even years after therapy has concluded. Lymphedema may also be associated with accidents or certain diseases or problems that may inhibit the lymphatic system from functioning properly. In tropical areas of the world, a common cause of secondary lymphedema is filariasis, a parasitic infection. It can also be caused by a compromising of the lymphatic system resulting from cellulitis.

Lymphedema can also be categorized by its severity (usually referenced to a healthy extremity):

  • Grade 1 (mild edema): Lymphedema involves the distal parts such as a forearm and hand or a lower leg and foot. The difference in circumference is less than 4 cm, and other tissue changes are not yet present.
  • Grade 2 (moderate edema): Lymphedema involves an entire limb or corresponding quadrant of the trunk. Difference in circumference is more than 4 but less than 6 cm. Tissue changes, such as pitting, are apparent. The patient may experience erysipelas.
  • Grade 3a (severe edema): Lymphedema is present in one limb and its associated trunk quadrant. The difference in circumference is greater than 6 centimeters. Significant skin alterations, such as cornification or keratosis, cysts and/or fistulae, are present. Additionally, the patient may experience repeated attacks of erysipelas.
  • Grade 3b (massive edema): The same symptoms as grade 3a, except two or more extremities are affected.
  • Grade 4 (gigantic edema): Also known as elephantiasis, in this stage of lymphedema, the affected extremities are huge due to almost complete blockage of the lymph channels. Elephantiasis may also affect the head and face.
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