What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a type of swelling.
- Due to damaged, dysfunctioning, or overloaded lymphatic vessels
- The leg gets bigger with fluid
- At first the fluid will go down over night and a finger can push the fluid out of the way (Pitting Edema)
- Later lots of proteins get deposited in the tissues and they won’t drain easily (Woody edema)
- The foot may have a buffalo hump on the top.
- The inside and outside ankle bones and the heel area may have the same hump.
- The toes may become square shaped.
- Sometimes swelling is so bad blisters develop or
- clear fluid may drain out through the skin (Lymphorhhea)
- The skin is thickened,
- In early stages Stemmer’s sign is positive. The skin at the base of the second toe can’t be pinched
- In late stages the skin has a crusty cobble stone appearance (Elephantiasis)
- Patients with lymphedema are at a much higher risk of getting infection in the tissues called cellulitis.
- Repeated episodes of cellulitis damage the lymphatics even more
- Can be inherited
- Lymphedema Praecox occurs early in life
- Lymphedema Tarda occurs late in life
- Lymph vessels are a third type of vessel, in addition to arteries and veins.
- ARTERIES deliver blood and fluid TO the body’s tissues.
- VEINS remove the vast majority of it FROM the tissues.
- LYMPHATICS drain the left over fluid and proteins FROM the tissues.
- LYMPH NODES are the filters of the lymphatics.
- The lymph vessels have one way valves and peristalsis: coordinated muscle contractions in the lymph vessel wall that propel fluid forward, like the intestines do for food.
- Loss of peristalsis or valve function
- Lymphatics damaged by infection
- Lymph nodes removed during surgery
Lymphedema also occurs when the VEINS can’t empty well. The lymphatics get overloaded. This is called Phlebolymphedema. Treating the veins helps Phlebolymphedema
Even if the underlying cause of the swelling cannot be found or corrected, there are lots of
Compression Garments – we carry the full line of Sigvaris compression garments
Compression wraps We carry CompreFit from Sigvaris and Circ-Aid from Medi
Wedge pillow correctly elevates your legs above the trunk and heart
Adjustable bed overnight elevation of legs can work wonders.
Complete Decongestive Therapy specialized physical therapy that uses massage and wrapping
Lymphedema pumps we recommend The Flexitouch pump and the Biotab pump
Schedule a Consultation
If you suffer from Lymphedema and are looking for treatment, call 704-544-5245 to schedule a consultation. Vein Specialists of the Carolinas serves Charlotte, Gastonia, and surrounding areas in North Carolina.