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Lymphedema

Lymphedema is the blockage of the body's lymph nodes, causing lymphatic fluid to build up and cause swelling in a portion of the body.

condition

Definition

LymphedemaLymphedema is the blockage of the body's lymph nodes, causing lymphatic fluid to build up and cause swelling in a portion of the body. Lymph vessels collect fluid — which includes protein, water, fats and other waste products — from throughout the body and carry it to the lymph nodes, where the waste products are filtered out and the lymphatic fluid is recirculated in the body.

Causes

  • Surgery or radiation treatment for certain cancers, especially breast and testicular cancer
  • Other surgical procedures
  • Skin infections
  • Infections from parasites
  • Trauma
  • Tumors
  • Burns
  • Being born without lymph nodes (inherited lymphedema)

Risk

  • Surgery or radiation treatment for certain cancers, especially breast and testicular cancer
  • Other surgical procedures
  • Skin infections
  • Infections from parasites
  • Trauma
  • Tumors
  • Burns
  • Being born without lymph nodes (inherited lymphedema)

Symptoms

  • Swelling, aching, weakness, redness, heaviness or tightness in the arms or legs
  • Reduced flexibility in the wrist or ankle
  • Rings or shoes that become tight fitting
diagnosis

Diagnosis

  • Ultrasound: Sound waves are used to create an image of the lymphatic vessels and measure blood flow.
  • Computed Tomography (CT) scan: X-ray views of the lymphatic vessels are taken to locate any blockages.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): Radio waves and magnetic fields are used to show areas where lymph nodes are blocked.
  • Lymphoscintigraphy: A small dose of a radioactive substance is injected to highlight the flow of lymph fluid through the lymphatic vessels.
treatment

Treatment

  • Compression stockings or other compression methods: The stockings may ease the symptoms and keep the lymph fluid flowing through the body.
  • Range of motion exercises: A specially designed exercise program may help improve the movement of lymph fluid through the body.
  • Manual lymph drainage: Massage therapy designed to improve movement of lymph fluid through the body.
  • Surgery: Performed in rare cases, surgery may include removing abnormal lymph tissue, liposuction or transplanting normal lymph tissues to replace abnormal lymph tissue.
Vascular Screenings

Are You Eligible? 

Just because you don't have symptoms of vascular disease doesn't mean you aren't at risk. We offer screenings every week at Northridge Medical Park.

Eligible patients include:

  • Age 65 or older
  • Age 50 or older with cardiovascular risk factors
  • Adults 45 years or older and an abnormal finding would prompt modification of your lifestyle or medical care
  • Family history of abdominal aortic aneurysm 

Insurance doesn't cover screenings if you aren't experiencing symptoms. The out-of-pocket cost is $99 for all tests.

Find out more (PDF) or call 434.924.5824.

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