Lymphedema is typically caused by damage to the lymphatic system, resulting in the swelling of body tissue. The swelling in lymphedema is caused by an abnormal accumulation of protein-rich fluid in the tissue and the condition is caused by an impairment of the lymphatic system to clear this accumulation of fluid from a certain part of the body. Lymphedema typically occurs in the arms and legs, but it can also be present in other parts of the body, including the groin, neck and head areas. It can cause significant pain and discomfort, reduced function, impaired mobility and recurrent infections.
Lymphedema can be considered either primary or secondary:
- Primary lymphedema: a congenital or inherited condition where the lymphatic system is impaired
- Secondary lymphedema: an impairment of the lymphatic system due to surgical intervention (due to cancer), or cancer treatments such as radiation therapy.
There can be various long term effects of lymphedema but they can be more effectively managed if the condition is diagnosed and treated before chronic symptoms occur.
- National Lymphedema Network position papers
- Weight lifting in women with breast cancer-related lymphedema
- Excellent article from the New England Journal of Medicine on recent research on the effect of weight lifting in women recovering from breast cancer with lymphedema. The authors of the article concluded that:“In breast-cancer survivors with lymphedema, slowly progressive weight lifting had no significant effect on limb swelling and resulted in a decreased incidence of exacerbations of lymphedema, reduced symptoms, and increased strength.”
- Jean has posted an excellent blog post on Nutrition and Lymphedema – check it out here!