What is lymphedema?

Lymph is body fluid that is filtered from blood vessels to tissue. From tissue, lymph is transported by lymph vessels to lymph nodes and further via lymphatic system back to venous circulation.

If the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, lymph is unable to move forward and the tissue starts to swell with fluid. The swelling caused by the problems in the lymphatic system is known as a disease called lymphedema.

A common problem for lymphedema patients is that the swollen body part becomes extremely large and heavy causing pain, limited range of motion and disability. The dysfunction of the lymphatic system results in excessive tissue fluid build up. Chronic inflammation causes fibrosis which may result in hardening of the surrounding tissue. This makes the whole lymphatic drainage process even more difficult.

Today’s medicine does not know a cure for lymphedema. The most common treatment to the lymphedema swelling is Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) that consists of four phases: Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD), compression therapy, exercises, and skin care techniques.

LymphaTouch® has been designed to support Manual Lymphatic Drainage by enabling skin stretching through negative pressure.

The reasons behind lymphedema

Primary lymphedema

Lymphedema might be developed already from birth. This is called primary lymphedema. In primary lymphedema body is exposed to swelling in the areas and limbs where the lymphatic system is not functioning properly.

Secondary lymphedema

The lymph carrying capacity might also become damaged after surgeries, radiotherapy, trauma or infection. For example, in cancer surgeries the lymph nodes close to tumor area are often either removed or radiated. The removed or operated lymph nodes might predispose body to lymphatic swelling after the cancer treatments. Upper limb swelling is common especially after breast cancer surgeries and after removing lymph nodes from the armpit.

Obesity is also one component in lymphatic swelling and developing a secondary lymphedema. Sometimes it is the only reason for lymphedema.