Lymphedema: Lymphedema is a chronic condition which manifests itself in the form of lymphatic fluid retention and accumulation in the interstitial spaces and tissues due to any disturbance or dysfunction of the lymphatic system. The major and most characteristic symptoms of the disease are edema and swelling of the limbs (upper and lower), which may cause deformation and completely restricted range of movement and loss of function of the affected limbs. The disease, no matter what the severity is, has been declared incurable because there is no definite cure or treatment that can completely eliminate the disease and its symptoms from the body, and once diagnosed patients cannot make a full recovery.
Some of the leading causes of chronic lymphedema are breast cancer surgery and radiation therapy, filariasis, cuts, burns, wounds, injury, trauma, infections, and anything that may lead to the improper functioning, blockage or obstruction of the normal lymphatic flow.
What is the treatment of chronic lymphedema?
Chronic lymphedema treatment currently is a set of techniques that can only help in reducing some of the symptoms and manifestations of the diseases to some extent, because as discussed previously, there is no treatment for the complete elimination of the disease from the body. Chronic lymphedema treatment includes certain manual practices and surgical procedures as well. Some of the manual techniques used in the treatment of chronic lymphedema have been enlisted below:
- Compression: Compression has proved to be extremely helpful and effective in terms of significant reduction in the edema and swelling caused by the disease, and this can be achieved with the help of various compression garments, such as compression sleeves, stocking, wraps and bandages available today. Pneumatic compression is also very effective for the purpose.
- Manual lymph drainage: Manual lymph drainage can either be practiced by the patients themselves or with someone’s aid, but these aim to restore the normal flow of the lymph by easing it out of the tissues and interstitial spaces where it has accumulated.
- Exercises: There are various exercises designed especially for lymphedema patients in order to relieve the swelling and these include elevation, stretching and certain aerobic exercises as well.
- Massages: Massages that are used in chronic lymphedema treatment aim to produce pressure and compression at the affected region while also aiming to regulate normal lymphatic flow. These massages aid in restoring normal function and range of movement of the limbs.
- Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT): One of the most effective therapies used in the treatment of chronic lymphedema is the Complex Decongestive Therapy which has produced some of the most significant results in terms of reducing swelling and edema and restoring the normal movement and function of the limbs. It is a combination of all the practices mentioned above simultaneously.