Part 1 – What is Lymphoedema
Blog by Alyaa Mokh’ee (Lymphoedema Physiotherapist)
I have excessive swelling in my legs/arms, I must have lymphoedema!
There are many popular misconceptions that prolonged extensive swelling is always lymphoedema. It is also widely believed that once you have it, that there is nothing you can do to manage the condition.
Luckily, this is simply not true! Read on to find out more!
Oedema vs Lymphoedema
Oedema is defined as the excessive collection of fluid in your tissues or cells.
Lymphoedema, on the other hand, is a condition where there is a build-up of excessive amounts of protein-rich fluid (lymph) in your tissues, resulting in swelling of one or more region(s) of your body.
They look the same! How do I tell the difference?!
Lymphoedema can often present as other health conditions, including:
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Liver and Kidney Disorders
- Deep Vein Thrombosis
- Venous Insufficiencies
However, the defining features of lymphoedema are:
- Tightness or heaviness in a limb
- Increased and/or visible swelling in the limb
- An aching feeling
- Pitting/indentation of skin with pressure of affected limb
Whilst not conclusive, these features are indicative of a malfunction in your lymphatic system.
Where is my lymphatic system in the body and what does it do?
Your lymphatic system is embedded throughout different layers of your body.
- Lymph vessels – valves ensure one-way movement
- Lymph nodes – in your neck, underarm, groin and deep in abdomen
- Lymph fluid
Your lymphatic system works alongside your circulatory system. Unlike the circulatory system which loops and circulates around the body, the lymphatic system is a one-way system.
This normal process starts with lymph fluid being accumulated within your tissues. The lymph contains toxins, bacteria, waste products and proteins that have escaped from your circulatory system. Lymph fluid then gets transported to your lymph nodes via your lymph vessels. These nodes then filter the lymph fluid and returns any proteins and vitamins back into your circulatory system. Excess water and waste products are then transported to your liver and kidneys to be eliminated from your body.
Lymphoedema happens when there is a fault/interruption in this process.
PART 2 – How is Lympoedema Diagnosed?
Blog by Alyaa Mohamed Mokh’ee (Physiotherapist)