Lymphedema is a common problem that requires treatment early enough to minimize any further health complications. One of the causes of lymphedema is obesity, which has varying attributing factors to the condition. As a matter of fact, studies show that obesity can lead to impairment of the functionality of the lymphatic system.

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Lymphedema is a chronic condition that gradually develops over time and is associated with the lymphatic system, where there is improper drainage of the lymphatic fluid. It is seen as an irreversible condition, meaning that once you develop lymphedema, then there is no undoing the damage caused. That is not meant to discourage you as you can apply various therapeutic treatment methods to improve the condition. If they are effective, swelling reduces and the swollen limb areas can greatly reduce to a near normal size. Therefore, making it possible to go by daily routine with ease.

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What Is A Lymphedema Due To Obesity?

What Is A Lymphedema Due To Obesity?

Lymphedema caused by obesity is referred to as obesity-induced lymphedema. It often affects the lower extremities such as legs and can also affect the groins, chest and heart regions. Patients with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 60 are at a risk of developing obesity-induced lymphedema. The greater the BMI is, the higher the risk of lymphedema in the lower extremities.

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Obesity can cause lymphedema in various ways including the abnormal flow of lymphatic fluid, especially in the lower extremities. When the flow of lymphatic fluid is not normal, then the chances that it is accumulating in a certain tissue of a limb is very high. Gradually, the collected lymphatic fluid will increase leading to swelling of the affected areas, which is a common trait of lymphedema. In addition to that, having excess weight on your body leads to pressure on the lymph vessels, which can easily get damaged. Other than that, when the lymph nodes are also affected or rather damaged, they swell up as the lymphatic fluids accumulate in the nodes.

Additionally, obesity can also lead to excess production of lymph fluid and reduced clearance of harmful substances in the lymph glands due to impaired mobility. This can further lead to lymphatic disorders which can be hard to fix resulting in health complications since the lymphatic system will not function properly. Health complications arising from lymphedema include heart failure, edema, and pulmonary hypertension, mainly, when the heart and chest are affected. If one had an already impaired lymphatic system, then lymphedema due to obesity can worsen the situation, impairing the system further.

The symptoms of lymphedema due to obesity in the lower extremities include; pain, swelling, discomfort, and tightness of the skin, reduced flexibility and mobility as well. Lymphedema also increases the risk of infections.

Will Reducing Weight Fix Lymphedema?

The first step to improving obesity-induced lymphedema is reducing weight which can be done by exercising and good eating habits. However, since the damage caused by lymphedema cannot be fully reversed, weight loss will not cure lymphedema. But, it will greatly improve the quality of your life. Furthermore, reduced weight also helps relieve the swelling and pain on the affected limbs. Studies show that for patients who already have developed obesity-induced lymphedema, even after a weight loss intervention, are still susceptible to poor lymphatic functionality. In short, one still experiences lymphatic fluid flow anomalies, which may persist a lifetime.

Conclusion

If you are obese and develop lymphedema in the lower extremities – legs and even the genitalia – chances are high the obesity caused the condition. So, it is important to watch what you eat and your weight so as to lower the risk of obesity-induced lymphedema. Obesity greatly affected the lymphatic system due to the increased tissue in the body which can strain the lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes. Other than that, it causes a disruption in the normal functionality of the system, which can attribute to various health complications. Obesity-induced lymphedema is irreversible, but with great weight loss, exercising and other therapeutic treatment for lymphedema, it can get better.

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Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: May 1, 2019

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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