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Diseases & Conditions

About Lymphedema

Lymphedema is extreme swelling which occurs in the arms or legs. The condition most often occurs following removal or damage to the lymph nodes during cancer treatment. The damage can cause a blockage that keeps the lymph fluid from draining properly. The fluid buildup results in swelling.

The Function of the Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system helps the body fight infection. Lymph fluid circulates throughout the body collecting waste products, viruses, and bacteria. These substances are filtered out by cells that fight infection, lymphocytes, which flush the viruses and bacteria out of the body.

Symptoms of Lymphedema

The most obvious symptom of lymphedema is swelling of all or part of an extremity. In most cases, the swelling is confined to one arm or leg, but it can affect both arms or both legs. The swelling ranges from mild to severe and can become almost impossible for an individual suffering from lymphedema to use the affected limb because of the restricted range of motion. The affected arm or leg may feel tight, heavy and ache. The swelling may also cause the skin to become hard and thick, and the individual may experience recurrent infections.

Causes of Lymphedema

Primary lymphedema is rare and occurs when an inherited condition interferes with the development of the lymph vessels. Examples of primary lymphedema include Milroy’s disease and Meige’s disease. The majority of lymphedema cases are secondary in nature and are the result of surgery, cancer treatment, or infection. Older adults, individuals who are overweight, and persons suffering from rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis are more likely to develop this condition.

Treatment of Lymphedema

There is no cure for lymphedema, but the condition can be managed and treated to reduce the risk of complications. A doctor or lymphedema specialist can recommend exercises to promote lymph fluid drainage. A person trained in manual lymph drainage may use massage to increase the flow of lymph fluid from the extremity. This technique should not be used by individuals with blood clots, active cancer, skin infections, or congestive heart failure. Another treatment is compression therapy using specially designed sleeves or stockings or using bandages to wrap the arm or leg. The following medications are commonly used to treat lymphedema.

Medications to Treat Lymphedema

Over-the-Counter Medications:

  • Lasix
  • Demadex
  • Bumex
  • Soriatane
  • Albenza
  • Cleocin
  • Bicillin LA

Compounded Medications:
We can make oral suspensions, capsules, creams, gels, lotions or ointments of the following:

  • Furosemide
  • Coumarin
  • Spironolactone
  • Clindamycin
  • Penicillin
  • Cefazolin
  • "It is rare to find health professionals who are so willing to educate the patient on what they need to know."

    Clair C. | West Hollywood, CA