Edema is best described as pronounced swelling, often of the extremities. This swelling is actually an accumulation of excess fluid in the body tissues.
Causes of Edema
Edema can be caused by:
- Venous insufficiency causing blood flow to slow and blood to “pool” or fail to return to the heart
- Surgical procedures
- Injury to an affected area
The most extreme conditions of edema are actually known as Lymphedema, which is often misdiagnosed.
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema occurs when lymphatic fluid builds up in interstitial tissues. When the body is functioning normally, nearly 90% of the water found in our blood is filtered through the lymphatic system. However, when the lymphatic system is malformed or damaged, blockages can result and fluids from that particular area cannot be adequately filtered and circulated.
This fluid build-up that produces swelling is called lymphedema. The swelling can cause affected limbs to become extremely large and heavy, which can result in disfigurement and inhibit limb use. Whether an extreme case or just an extreme nuisance, Lymphedema continually worsens and can cause additional problems if left untreated.
Types of Lymphedema
There are two basic types of Lymphedema. Though the causes can vary, compression therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat this condition because it reduces swelling and promotes circulation of the lymphatic fluid.
- Primary Lymphedema: is caused by a congenital abnormality, such as Milroy’s, Praecox or Tarda Proximal/Distal Obliteration. It is diagnosed when a body’s lymphatic system has broken down over time or did not form correctly at birth.
- Secondary (Acquired) Lymphedema: can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Cancer surgery
- Lymph node dissection or removal
- Radiation therapy
- Surgeries or injuries that scar the lymphatic channels