The lymphatic system delivers nutrients to body tissues and removes waste products. It operates similarly to the circulatory system but is a separate system.
While the circulatory system relies on the heart to pump blood around the body, the lymphatic system relies on routine movement of the muscles and joints to push lymph fluid through the body. If a section of the lymphatic system is blocked or damaged, normal drainage may be slowed or stopped, resulting in swelling or lymphedema.
The word “lymphedema” means swelling (edema) that re- sults from the pooling of too much lymph fluid in areas of the body. This swelling occurs most often in the arms and legs, but it can also affect the face, neck, abdomen, or genitals. It is estimated that 5 million Americans suf- fer from lymphedema – resulting from cancer treatment - or other risk factors, in- cluding genetics, being overweight or obese and other health problems like heart or circu- lation issues.
Lymphedema can be complicated to treat, which is why you should see your medical professional for appropriate options as there are many variables, techniques and specialized treatments for lymphedema.
The most common procedure for managing lymphedema is called Complex or Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT).
CDT has two phases: phase l, reduction and phase ll, maintenance, each consisting of four elements. All the elements have specific contributions and can only be effective if applied together. The four elements of CDT are:
- Skin Care
- Manual lymph drainage (MLD)
- Compression therapy
- Exercise therapy
What Else Can You Do About Your Lymphedema?
The following recommendations apply only to the area of your body affected by lymphedema.
- Keep the affected area very clean.
- Avoid injuries to the skin that can lead to infection, such as scratches or bites from pets or bites or stings from insects.
- Avoid other activities that can cause more exten- sive trauma to the delicate lymphatic vessels, such as excessive strain during ex- ercise, restriction of blood and lymph circulation by blood pressure cuffs, tight bra straps, waist bands, etc.
- Avoid temperature ex- tremes that can stress the lymphatic system.
Short stretch bandaging is used in the reduction phase. Once the swelling is reduced and stabilized, the limb can then be fitted for a special compression garment, such as the FarrowWrap® OTS Arm for extremity edema/lymphedema and the FarrowWrap® 4000 compression leg piece. These garments will help control your condition.
Livia De Los Rios is president and CEO of Allied Medical Supply located at 424 S. Main St., Suite M in Orange. She can be reached by calling (714) 935-9200 or visit www.AlliedMedical.net