Lymphedema is a chronic condition that affects more than 4 million Americans and nearly 140 million people worldwide. With limited treatment options available, a lymphedema diagnosis can have a significant impact on your daily activities and overall quality of life.
At the Orlando Health Aesthetic and Reconstructive Surgery Institute, we are committed to providing you personalized treatment options to help you get back to a healthier life.
What Is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a debilitating condition that affects the body’s lymphatic system. The lymphatic system supports immunity and body fluid regulation.
When the body’s lymphatic vessels are unable to adequately drain fluid, lymphedema occurs. This results in an accumulation of lymphatic fluid, which causes abnormal swelling and pain to occur in a particular part of the body. In many cases, this pain and swelling will occur in the arms or legs and can lead to infections and wounds in severe cases.
While primary lymphedema is typically inherited or genetic in nature, secondary lymphedema occurs as a result of another disease, procedure or treatment. Secondary lymphedema is much more common than primary lymphedema, and it is often caused by damage to the lymph nodes or vessels. Specific causes of secondary lymphedema include:
- Cancer. When cancerous cells and tumors block the body’s lymphatic vessels, lymphedema may occur.
- Infection. Recurrent infections that affect the lymph system may cause damage and result in lymphedema or make the existing lymphedema worse.
- Radiation treatment. Radiation treatment for cancer can lead to scarring and inflammation of the lymph nodes and lymph vessels. Over time, this may restrict the flow of lymphatic fluid and lead to lymphedema.
- Surgery. When the body’s lymph nodes and vessels are surgically removed or cut, lymphedema can occur.
When you have been diagnosed with lymphedema, the symptoms can have a debilitating effect on your quality of life. Over time, these symptoms can progressively worsen, especially if left untreated. Common symptoms of lymphedema include:
- A feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected area
- Swelling in the affected limb
- Pain or discomfort in the affected limb
- Limb fatigue
- Hardening, thickening or discoloration of the skin overlying the lymphedema
- Restricted range of motion
- Recurring infections in the affected limb
If traditional lymphedema therapy does not improve your symptoms, surgery may be an option. Advanced lymphedema treatments we offer include:
- Lymphedema rehabilitation
- Vascularized lymph node transfer (VLNT)
- Lymphovenous bypass
- Suction Assisted Protein Lipectomy (SAPL)
Our multidisciplinary team of lymphedema specialists includes:
- Physician assistants and nurse practitioners
- Physical and occupational therapists