The Honesty Project

An ongoing series of exploration and informational entries

Lymphedema symptoms and causes 


Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs. Sometimes both arms or both legs swell.

Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. It results from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling.

While there is presently no cure for lymphedema, it can be managed with early diagnosis and diligent care of your affected limb.

Lymphedema signs and symptoms, which occur in your affected arm or leg, include:

Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg, including fingers or toes

A feeling of heaviness or tightness

Restricted range of motion

Aching or discomfort

Recurring infections

Hardening and thickening of the skin (fibrosis)

The swelling caused by lymphedema ranges from mild, hardly noticeable changes in the size of your arm or leg to extreme changes that make the limb hard to use. Lymphedema caused by cancer treatment may not occur until months or years after treatment.Causes

Your lymphatic system is crucial to keeping your body healthy. It circulates protein-rich lymph fluid throughout your body, collecting bacteria, viruses and waste products. Your lymphatic system carries this fluid and harmful substances through your lymph vessels, which lead to lymph nodes. The wastes are then filtered out by lymphocytes — infection-fighting cells that live in your lymph nodes — and ultimately flushed from your body.

Lymphedema occurs when your lymph vessels are unable to adequately drain lymph fluid, usually from an arm or leg. Lymphedema can be either primary or secondary. This means it can occur on its own (primary lymphedema), or it can be caused by another disease or condition (secondary lymphedema). Secondary lymphedema is far more common than primary lymphedema.

Causes of secondary lymphedema can be any condition or procedure that damages your lymph nodes or lymph vessels. 

Such causes include:

Surgery.

Removal of or injury to lymph nodes and lymph vessels may result in lymphedema. For example, lymph nodes may be removed to check for spread of breast cancer, and lymph nodes may be injured in surgery that involves blood vessels in your limbs.

Radiation treatment for cancer.

Radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels.

Cancer.

If cancer cells block lymphatic vessels, lymphedema may result. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could enlarge enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.

Infection.

An infection of the lymph nodes or parasites can restrict the flow of lymph fluid. Infection-related lymphedema is most common in tropical and subtropical regions and is more likely to occur in developing countries.

Causes of primary lymphedema

Primary lymphedema is a rare, inherited condition caused by problems with the development of lymph vessels in your body. Specific causes of primary lymphedema include:

Milroy's disease (congenital lymphedema). This disorder begins in infancy and causes lymph nodes to form abnormally.

Meige's disease (lymphedema praecox). This disorder often causes lymphedema around puberty or during pregnancy, though it can occur later, until age 35.

Late-onset lymphedema (lymphedema tarda). This occurs rarely and usually begins after age 35.

Risk factors

Factors that may increase your risk of developing lymphedema after cancer, from cancer treatment or from other secondary causes include:

Older age

Excess weight or obesity

Rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis

Complications

Lymphedema in your arm or leg can lead to serious complications, such as:

Infections. Possible infections that can result from lymphedema include a serious bacterial infection of the skin (cellulitis) and an infection of the lymph vessels (lymphangitis). The smallest injury to your arm or leg can be an entry point for infection.

Lymphangiosarcoma. This rare form of soft tissue cancer can result from the most-severe cases of untreated lymphedema. Possible signs of lymphangiosarcoma include blue-red or purple marks on the skin.

Prevention

If you have had or you are going to have cancer surgery, ask your doctor whether your procedure will involve your lymph nodes or lymph vessels. Ask if your radiation treatment will be aimed at lymph nodes, so you'll be aware of the possible risks.

To reduce your risk of lymphedema, try to:

Protect your arm or leg. Avoid injury to your affected limb. Cuts, scrapes and burns can invite infection. Protect yourself from sharp objects. For example, shave with an electric razor, wear gloves when you garden or cook, and use a thimble when you sew. If possible, avoid medical procedures, such as blood draws and vaccinations, in your affected limb.

Rest your arm or leg while recovering. After cancer treatment, exercise and stretching are encouraged. But avoid strenuous activity until you've recovered from surgery or radiation.

Avoid heat on your arm or leg. Don't apply ice or heat, such as with a heating pad, to your affected limb. Also, protect your affected limb from extreme cold.

Elevate your arm or leg. Whenever possible, elevate your affected limb above the level of your heart.

Avoid tight clothing. Avoid anything that could constrict your arm or leg, such as tightfitting clothing and, in the case of your arm, blood pressure cuffs. Ask that your blood pressure be taken in your other arm.

Keep your arm or leg clean. Make skin and nail care high priorities. Inspect the skin on your arm or leg daily, watching for changes or breaks in your skin that could lead to infection. Don't go barefoot.

*Information provided by Mayo Clinic.

Endermologie has been acknowledged by the F.D.A for its improvement of Secondary Lymphedema.

Meditation for peace


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5 tips to toning your body after 40.

By Lin Hazley


A lot of things change about our bodies as we get older – our muscle mass decreases, our metabolism slows and we can’t always exercise the way we used to.

The key to losing weight and toning your body is NOT to starve yourself, try a new fad diet or exercise an unhealthy amount.  Instead, making small, sustainable changes will add up to big weight loss and toning over time.  By making small changes you can realistically stick to, you’ll keep the weight off and your life won’t turn into a constant dieting cycle.

Trying to tone your body after pregnancy or with long work hours can be a challenge but it isn’t impossible.  You may need to consider making some lifestyle changes or seek help from a professional treatment. 

Here are six habits to adopt right now, to help you tone your body over forty:

Don’t Skip Meals

You might be tempted to skip meals when you’re not hungry in order to cut out more calories from your day. This can be a big mistake, however, as cutting meals can mess with your metabolism.

Your body likes routine, so try to get on a regular eating schedule. Skipping meals can also cause your blood sugar to drop rapidly, which can leave you ravenously hungry later in the day and make you reach for unhealthy snacks.

Figure Out Your Calorie Needs

There are tons of diets out there that claim to do things differently, but the science of weight loss is simple: you need to burn more calories than you consume. In order to do this, you need to determine exactly what your calorie needs are. There are plenty of online calculators to help you determine this, or consult a dietician or doctor if you think you have a substantial amount of weight to lose.

Try Endermologie ® Treatments

Toning at a later age can be difficult, so sometimes you need assistance from a treatment like Endermologie ®. Extensive research has shown that body Endermologie® helps to tone and improve the skin’s radiance while reducing the appearance of cellulite. It only requires 15-45 minutes and results are usually seen within 2-3 weeks. It’s completely natural, non-invasive, and has no side effects.

Stay Active

As we get older, it seems life gets busier and busier. Between going to work, picking up the kids from school, and cooking dinner, there never seems to be enough time in the day. Even if it’s a quick walk around the block before the family wakes up or taking your little ones for a neighborhood bike ride, staying active is important for maintaining a good metabolism.

Reduce Stress Eating with Meditation

Stress eating is something many adults struggle with, so reducing stress should be a top priority when you’re dieting and trying to tone. This is easier said than done, but studies have shown that meditating can help reduce stress.

It only takes five minutes or less per day and it can make a big difference in your stress level.

Still Having Trouble Losing Weight?

If you still can’t tone your body the way you want, it might be time to seek professional treatment like Endermologie ®. We offer the revolutionary Endermologie® treatment to help you reduce the appearance of cellulite, tone the skin, and more.

Endermologie can help you get the body you’ve always wanted at any age.

If you are interested in learning more about what this process can do for you,  contact us for a consultation.

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