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Lymphedema is a condition for which there is no cure, at the present time. It occurs in patients, primarily women coping with breast cancer, healing from the lymph node dissection surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments associated with it.

Lymphedema is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissue that causes swelling, most often in the arm(s) and or leg(s), and occasionally in other parts of the body. Lymphedema can develop when lymphatic vessels are missing or impaired (Primary), or when lymph vessels are damaged or lymph nodes removed (secondary).

When the impairment becomes so great that the lymphatic fluid exceeds the lymphatic transport capacity of the vessels, an abnormal amount of protein-rich fluid collects in the tissues of the affected area. Left untreated, this stagnant, protein-rich fluid not only causes tissue channels to increase in size, but also reduces oxygen availability in the transport system, interferes with wound healing, and provides a culture medium for bacteria that can result in lymphangitis (infection).

The accumulation of the high protein lymphedmatous fluid causes chronic inflammation and fibrosis in the affected extremity, due to the large size of protein molecules not being able to be transported through the lymphatic circulatory system. This condition can be extremely debilitating at times if left untreated. Stage 4 level of Elephantiasis can occur in these extremities where the limb is left useless and susceptible to infection.

The signs or symptoms of lymphedema to watch out for include: a full sensation in the limb(s), skin feeling tight, decrease flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle, difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area or ring/watchband/bracelet tightness. If you notice persistent swelling, it is very important that you seek immediate medical advice as early diagnosis and treatment improves both the prognosis and the condition.

by Linda Cloward LMT ~ The Rapha Center