Lymphedema is a medical condition where there is swelling either in your arms or legs or sometimes both due to the buildup of lymphatic fluid in your lymphatic system. Usually, this will occur due when a lymph node is damaged or needs to be removed as part of cancer treatment. A blockage occurs which disrupts the flow of lymphatic fluid.
Swelling is the main symptom of lymphedema. One or more of an individual’s extremity swells, this will range from mild, severe and sometimes disfiguring. The treatment of breast cancer is the most common cause of lymphedema. There is no direct treatment for lymphedema, however physical therapy and compression treatments may help in reducing the swelling and discomfort.
The lymphatic system is composed of lymph vessels that collect excess lymph fluid filled with proteins, lipids and waste products from the tissues. This fluid is then carried to the lymph nodes to be filtered and eventually returned into the bloodstream.
When the lymph vessels are blocked or removed the lymph fluid is deposited into the tissues which lead to swelling or edema. Generally, a single arm or leg is affected by lymphedema but sometimes both limbs are affected.
There are two types of lymphedema, these are:
- Primary Lymphedema is an inherited condition that is caused by an anatomical abnormality of the lymph vessels.
- Secondary lymphedema is a result of an existing disorder or a blockage in otherwise healthy lymph vessels and nodes.
Another known case of lymphedema is filariasis. Filariasis is a tropical disease involving a parasite that would cause obstruction in the lymph vessels which leads to edema or lymphedema.
Aside from swelling, several other symptoms occur, which include:
- Inability or restricted movements due to the swelling
- Discomfort or aching such as tingling in the affected area
- Infection that is recurring
- Fibrosis or the hardening or thickening of the skin
Secondary lymphedema may occur not until months or years have passed after treatment.
There is no known cure for lymphedema. However, treatment focuses on the management of the symptoms and control discomfort and other symptoms.
If you think you are suffering from Lymphedema you should seek medical assistance. You may also be entitled to Social Security Disability Benefits. The SSA considered Lymphedema as a medical condition that would make you eligible for SSDI and SSI. Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a “Listing of Medical Impairments” (known as the blue book) that automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).