For many people, Summer, rather than being a joyful time, is a dreadful time. Hot weather, insect bites and air travel are among those conditions that can trigger lymphedema for those at risk. Are you at risk for Lymphedema?
In the U.S., within the Medicare aged population, the number of persons afflicted with lymphedema, or at risk of developing it, exceeds 6.8 million individuals.
There are two types of lymphedema:
Primary Lymphedema – It occurs when people are born with a malformation of the Lymphatic System. Lymph vessels and/or nodes are absent.
Secondary Lymphedema – It is the most common lymphedema. It results of damage in the Lymphatic System.
Well, lymphedema is a progressive disease. It results from the accumulation of lymph fluid in parts of the body due to partial failure of the Lymphatic System. It initially causes swelling, aching and stiffness. Left untreated lymphedema symptoms worsen slowly and insidiously. Over time, it becomes an irreversible disease w ith debilitating conditions.
What Is Your Risk of Getting Lymphedema?
The combination of two or more of the following conditions, increases the risk for the disease:
- cancer and/or removal of lymph nodes
- radiation treatment
- venous disease (bulging veins or removal of them)
- air travel
- mosquito bite
How Can You Tell If Lymphedema Is Setting In?
Lymphedema has a slow onset that can hardly be noticed during the first stage of its development. So, at first, it’s not really easy to detect this disease. For example, swelling that comes and goes for over a six month period can be a sign of lymphedema in its first stage of development. However, this important sign is often ignored.
- momentary swelling of parts of the body. It comes and goes.
- jewelry, clothing and shoes can feel tighter some times.
- discomfort and heavy sensation in the limbs
- general fatigue
Any of the changes or symptoms described above need to be assessed by a doctor. The combination of these signs may indicate lymphedema in its first stage. There are four stages of Lymphedema. This first one is still reversible.
Real Lymphedema Story!
For instance, one of my yoga students had abdominal surgery due to early stage cancer. She also had some lymph nodes removed from her abdominal area and left groin area. Lymph node removal is a huge risk for lymphedema! However, she was not advised about the possibility of lymphedema. Uninformed, necessary precautions were not taken. She was having a slight swelling in the leg from time to time. She disregarded it. After all, the swelling always disappeared a few days later.
A few years passed after her surgery. Then, she begin to travel consistently back and forth from Florida to California – about a 5 hour flight. She was not informed about using compression stocking during her air travel. Her leg was swelling even more but always reversed to almost normal size.
After two years of this constant air travel, her leg one day “blew up” (according to her own words) and never returned to normal. Rather, her leg began to slowly enlarge even more. The leg lost its shape, it began to harden. It became like a trunk. She went to the same doctor. Diagnosis: lymphedema. Prognosis: incurable and progressive.
So, lymphedema may appear immediately after surgery, or a few years later, or even 15 to 20 years post surgery. Because of lack of information, the first stage of the disease, that is still reversible, passes undetected and untreated. This can lead to unnecessary and irreversible full blown lymphedema.
Lymphedema is an incurable disease that can only be managed and reduced with appropriate measures. It also is a progressive condition that can respond with early intervention. While it cannot be cured, it can be managed. Lymphedema management reduces the possibility of an incapacitating condition that affects the entire body.
Lymphatic Yoga can minimize the effects of an early lymphedema. Stay tuned for more about Lymphatic Yoga, breast cancer with lymph nodes removal and how to prevent or cope with this disease.*
Love, health and light to all!
*If you have or are at risk of developing lymphedema, you should visit your physician to have the condition diagnosed as soon as possible.