It is also known as Lymphatic Obstruction, is a condition of localized fluid retention and tissue swelling caused by a compromised lymphatic system. The lymphatic system returns the interstitial fluid to the thoracic duct and then to the bloodstream, where it is re circulated back to the tissues.
There are two main types of lymphoedema:
The main symptom of lymphoedema is swelling in all or part of a limb.
Other symptoms include:
There are two types of Lymphoedema- Primary and Secondary lymphoedema, which have different causes.
It is due to alterations (known as mutations) in genes responsible for the development of the lymphatic system.
Secondary lymphoedema: some of the common causes are-
Surgical treatment of cancer
Cancer spreads around the body via the lymphatic system and so part of the treatment can involve surgically removing the cancerous lymph nodes. There is a significant risk of lymphoedema occurring as a complication of treatment for:
Radiotherapy uses controlled doses of high-energy radiation to destroy cancerous tissue. However, it at times also damage healthy tissue.
Venous diseases, which affect the flow of blood through the veins, can cause lymphoedema in some people. The abnormal or damaged veins can result in excess blood or fluid building up in tissues, which causes tissue damage. This can affect the drainage of the lymphatic system.
Some venous diseases that can lead to lymphoedema include:
In some cases, an infection can cause lymphoedema.
Cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection that can cause lymphoedema, it is also sometimes a complication of the condition. A severe cellulitis infection can damage the tissue around lymph nodes or vessels, leading to scarring.
Another infectious cause of lymphoedema is a parasite infection called filariasis. This can be common in parts of the developing world, such as parts of India.
Conditions that cause tissue to become inflamed (red and swollen) can also permanently damage the lymphatic system. Health conditions that can cause lymphoedema include:
Measuring limb volume- These tests are explained below:
A tape measure is used at 4cm (1.6in) intervals up the leg to measure the limb circumference and then calculate limb volume.
Water displacement method:
The water displacement method is based on the principle that helps to calculate the volume of an object by measuring how much water it displaces.
Patient will be asked to place the affected limb in a tank of water and the amount of water that is displaced will then be measured. This measurement can be used to calculate the volume of limb.
Perometry is a technique that uses infrared light to measure the volume of limb. This process can accurately calculate how swollen affected limb is.
Imaging tests may also be used to help in the diagnosis. These include:
A computerised (axial) tomography (CT or CAT) scan – which uses X-rays and a computer to create detailed images of the veins or lymph nodes.
The recommended treatment for lymphoedema is a treatment plan called Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT). It is also known as Decongestive Lymphatic Therapy (DLT).
There are four components to CDT treatment: