Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the result of the congenital absence, subsequent blockage or invasion, or delayed deterioration of the fluid collecting channels that drain the tissue fluid back to the heart. These very fine lymph channels (lymphatics) run parallel to the veins and like the veins they also contain one way flow valves and have a similar muscular-lymphatic pumping system. Lymphedema may present early in life in the congenital form or may develop in the late teens or early 30’s as a result of deterioration of the lymphatic channels.. These patterns often run in families. Lymphedema may also result from damage to the lymphatics from injury, surgery, radiation therapy, or from tumor invasion resulting in swelling of the arm or leg. Lymphedema is not a venous disorder but may occur in patients with varicose veins. Lymphedema will result in lifelong swelling of the legs which is amendable to massage and compression therapy but at the present time there is no definitive cure. Left untreated Lymphedema will lead to chronic infections (lymphangitis) and skin problems and can be quite disabling. Newer devices for controlling leg swelling such as CircAid and Lympha Press have also made it easier for patients to help take care of themselves.