An overview of lymphedema

Before I get into the more fun topics, I thought it is important to start at the beginning and go over the basics of lymphedema and its treatment.

Lymphedema [lim-fa-dee-mah] is an abnormal collection of high-protein fluid, lymphatic fluid or lymph, beneath the skin that causes swelling. Your lymphatic system runs through your body and is parallel to your venous system. However, unlike your veins, the lymphatic system is not a closed system and has no central pump (ie your heart). When this system does not work correctly, the fluid collects causing edema or swelling in the tissues called lymphedema.

When the fluid remains stagnant in the tissue, the body often responds with inflammation, which then causes fibrosis (scar tissue). That fibrosis can make it harder for swelling to decrease, and can put you at higher risk of infection or cellulitis.

The most widely used treatment for lymphedema is called complete decongestive therapy (CDT) which includes manual lymph drainage (MLD) massage, compression bandaging, compression garments, skin care, exercise, and self-care.

I will go into details about all of these things more in the future, but for now, I’d love to share the videos that I have been producing with National Lymphedema Network. You can watch the whole series of them on the NLN’s website or YouTube channel.


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