What Is Lymphedema?
The lymphatic circulation is involved in the absorption of fluid in the body and in the response to infection. Lymphedema develops from damage to or obstruction of the lymphatic capillaries. While some people develop this condition during childhood due to a genetic abnormality, it generally is an acquired problem.
Infection is the most common cause of this problem, but some develop it as a result of tumors. In addition, both surgery and radiation therapy for breast cancer and pelvic cancers may cause lymphedema of the upper extremity and lower extremities respectively. It is typically a painless condition, but discomfort may occur.
Radiographic studies such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI may have value in the diagnosis of this condition. The following may help with lymphatic drainage:
What Is Edema?
Edema (swelling) is defined as an increase in tissue fluid. Edema may be due to:
In addition, they may develop an inflammatory induced edema. It is typically non-pitting (i.e. it does not leave an indentation when you press on it), localized and associated with other components of inflammation such as:
Corticosteroids can be effective in the treatment of the inflammatory edema seen with rheumatoid arthritis.
Answer provided by Scott J. Zashin, M.D., clinical assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Division of Rheumatology, in Dallas, Texas. Dr. Zashin is also an attending physician at Presbyterian Hospitals of Dallas and Plano. He is a fellow of the American College of Physicians and the American College of Rheumatology and a member of the American Medical Association. Dr. Zashin is author of Arthritis Without Pain - The Miracle Of Anti-TNF Blockers. The book is a must-have for anyone on one of the biologic drugs (Enbrel, Remicade, Humira) or considering the biologic drugs. Read our review of the book.