Swelling in the leg or an arm is called Lymphedema. This problem usually affects only one arm, but sometimes it may be present in both at the same time. Blockage in the lymphatic system is the cause of this problem. The lymphatic system is the key element of the circulatory and immune system. The drainage of the lymph fluid will be impaired by the mentioned blockage and the fluid buildup will then cause the swelling. Lymphedema can be controlled but unfortunately, no cure is available at this time.
Drugs and Treatments
Like we have said, the cure is unavailable, but the pain and the swelling can be controlled. The treatment will involve exercising plan, wrapping the leg or an arm, massage, pneumatic compression and the use of compression garments. We will provide more information on each of the treatment elements in the following lines.
- The first on the list is exercise plan, which is very important because the movement of the buildup fluid can be stimulated by the movement of the affected leg or arm. Exercises will cause only a gentle contraction of the leg or arm muscles, and they will not make you tired since they are not strenuous. The exercises you are supposed do to will be shown to you by your physical therapist.
- Next treatment option is leg or arm wrapping. The entire limb can be covered with bandages and this stimulates the lymph fluid to get out from the limb and go to the rest of the body. A bandage needs to be placed from the toes or fingers and this is where the bandage needs to be the tightest. And then again, the bandage needs to be looser as you go along.
- Manual lymph drainage is a massage that can help the lymph fluid to go from the leg or arm to the rest of the body. The affected limb will be stroked in a special way so that the lymph fluid goes to the healthy nodes, where it drains. But do not use this massage if you have received radiation therapy, if you have suffered from congestive heart failure, blood clots or if you have active cancer. Also, do not use the manual lymph drainage if you have a skin infection.
- Compression of the leg or an arm can be made with the use of compression garments, such as stockings or long sleeves. These garments can also be used when the swelling reduces as a safety precaution and in order that the swelling does not return. Ask a professional for help when choosing the garment. Sleeves used during the pneumatic compression go over the leg or an arm and this sleeve has a pump that inflates the sleeve, thus exposing the limb to a certain pressure. This will reduce the swelling since the pressure will move the lymph fluid from the limb.
- The complete decongestant therapy is the name of the treatment involving all of these elements, but it should not be used if a person suffers from an acute infection, blood clots, heart failure or paralysis. Also, those with diabetes and high blood pressure should not use it either.
- The excess tissue in the leg or an arm can be eliminated with the surgery but it will not cure the lymphedema.