Lymphedema is a chronic disease in which the part of the body, especially legs – one or both, gets swollen due to collection of lymph fluid. This happens when the lymph fluid, which should drain regularly through the lymphatic vessels in the chest, does not drain properly. When there is some damage or obstruction in the lymph nodes or lymphatic vessels, this problem occurs. Usually, the legs are affected in this disease. One or both legs may be affected.
Is There A Cure For Lymphedema In Legs?
Lymphedema at present has no cure. It can be only managed to the extent of relieving the swelling and pain and easing the discomfort. However, early detection and correct techniques for compression etc. can help in delaying or preventing the progress of the disease to later stages.
- When lymphedema occurs in the legs, it may present with one or many of the following symptoms.
- There is a swelling of the affected leg. The swelling generally starts from the furthest area of the leg, that is, the toes and the feet, and slowly progresses to the calf and then the rest of the leg.
- There is a heaviness and tightness in the affected leg.
- Because of this heaviness and tightness, there is a limitation in the movements.
- There might be pain due to the compression of the nerves or vessels due to the fluid collection.
- A general feeling of discomfort may also be present.
- Because of this fluid collection, there might be a chance of getting infection often.
- In the later stages, the skin begins to harden and thicken, as the fluid that is collected starts becoming more and more thick and fibrous. This gives a grainy or leathery appearance to the skin.
- Also, the skin may get an orange-peel appearance.
- Sometimes the affected limb may feel warm to touch.
- There may also be itching at times, especially during leaking.
If the skin starts to break, there might be fluid leaking from the skin. This is known as lymphorrhea. This may make it difficult to keep the skin, especially the skin folds, dry and free of infections.
The Types of Lymphedema
Two types of lymphedema can be seen – primary and secondary lymphedema. Primary lymphedema develops on its own. Secondary lymphedema occurs as a result of some another disease, if that disease or condition damages the lymph vessels or lymph nodes.
Treatment For Lymphedema In Leg
There is no known cure for lymphedema as of now. The treatment mainly concentrates on getting the swelling down and reducing the pain factor. Some of the treatment methods given below can be followed in order to get some relief from pain and swelling, and also to avoid the progress of the disease to a later stage.
- Wrapping the leg with a tight bandage can help in assisting the flow of the fluid towards the trunk. The bandage should be very tightly wrapped around the toes and the feet and should loosen up as it moves up the leg towards the trunk.
- Exercises and massage can be done. Some light exercises to stimulate the muscles in the legs to help drain the fluid will help and may give you better mobility. Massage can be done to manually drain the lymph. However, a specialist should handle this. Massage is to be avoided in case of skin infections and other such conditions.
- Compression garments can be used to compress the leg and stimulate the lymph flow out of the leg.
Lymphedema in the leg can be quite painful and a restrictive affair, as there is no cure for this disease. Due to the heaviness of the affected leg and restricted movements, it may be difficult for a person to perform even the day to day activities.