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5 Telltale Signs of Lymphedema

5 Telltale Signs of Lymphedema

Manjulatha Badam, MD, CWSP, UHM, of Vayu Advanced Wound Clinic & Hyperbarics in San Antonio, Texas, specializes in advanced wound care and other conditions related to your circulatory health.

Dr. Badam explains the causes of lymphedema, signs that may indicate you’re developing this chronic condition, and why early treatment matters.

Understanding the lymphatic system

The lymphatic system includes a vast network of small bean-shaped glands (lymph nodes) and interconnected vessels that circulate lymphatic fluid (lymph) throughout the body.

Lymph contains extra fluid and waste products such as proteins, fats, glucose, salts, and cell fragments that drain from your soft tissues. The fluid also carries fragmented cancer cells, bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other material your immune system targets as foreign invaders.

Microvessels (capillaries) collect lymph fluid and transport it away from your tissues to the lymph nodes. Your body has approximately 600 lymph nodes that cleanse and filter the lymph fluid as it passes through. The nodes also produce white blood cells (lymphocytes) that enter the lymph stream and help fight infection.

Lymphatic vessels eventually empty their fluid into larger collecting ducts that return lymph to the bloodstream. This helps maintain normal blood volume and pressure and prevents excess fluid buildup (edema) in your tissues.

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema occurs when a blockage or damage to lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes interferes with normal lymph drainage. This causes fluid buildup and soft tissue swelling that can develop anywhere but most frequently in the arms or legs.

Underlying issues that can trigger lymphedema include:

Cancer treatments that frequently increase your risk of lymphedema include those for prostate cancer, breast cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, and pelvic area cancers. 

The persistent swelling resulting from lymphedema can be particularly disabling and painful as fluid buildup increases. Advanced lymphedema can eventually cause the skin in affected regions to split and weep fluid. 

In addition, the protein-rich nature of lymph fluid also dramatically increases your risk of bacterial and fungal infections.

Five telltale signs of lymphedema

The swelling associated with lymphedema is usually significant and hard to miss as the condition advances. But there are often early warning signs in areas affected by impaired lymph drainage that may include:

Schedule a visit if you notice any of these symptoms, especially if you are at increased risk of developing lymphedema. Starting treatment early can prevent skin damage, pain, chronic infections, and other related health complications.

Make an appointment today for more information about lymphedema or any services we offer at Vayu Advanced Wound Clinic & Hyperbarics. Call the office or request an appointment online.

Dr. Manjulatha Badam

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