What is lymphedema?
The lymphatic system is part of your immune and circulatory systems. It works to help filter your blood while circulating it through your body. The lymphatic system carries a clear fluid called lymph. When a blockage prevents the lymph from circulating, it pools and causes swelling. Most of the time, this swelling occurs in the arms or legs, but it can also occur other places.
Lymphedema is the name of the condition that occurs when lymph pools. It can occur on its own, or it can be caused by another disease or disorder. For instance, if you have surgery that requires the removal of lymph nodes, then you might be susceptible to lymphedema if the remaining nodes cannot compensate for those removed. Or, an infection in the lymph nodes might also lead to a blockage. If left untreated, lymphedema can lead to swelling and infections.
How is lymphedema diagnosed?
The doctors at Novant Health Vascular Specialists have a variety of tools to diagnose lymphedema. MRIs, CT scans and ultrasounds are all tools that might help your doctor uncover the cause of swelling and determine if it is lymphedema.
How is lymphedema treated?
Treatment for lymphedema is highly personalized based on the cause and location of the swelling. Possible lymphedema treatments include exercises aimed at encouraging the movement of lymph fluid, and compressing or wrapping the affected limb to move lymph fluid through the body. Some cases also require surgery to remove excess tissue to reduce severe swelling.