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What Causes Lymphedema?

What Causes Lymphedema?

Swollen limbs or other parts of your body may feel stiff or heavy. Lymphedema, which causes this swelling, happens when your lymphatic system malfunctions, causing fluid, toxins, and proteins to accumulate in your tissues. 

The lymphatic system plays an essential role in immunity. It includes a network of vessels and lymph nodes that remove waste products, release white blood cells, and maintain your body’s fluid levels. When something damages the lymphatic system, these processes can malfunction. Fluid and waste build up, causing swelling characteristic of lymphedema. 

Lymphedema can start because of underlying medical conditions, certain medical treatments, or long-term habits. Though lymphedema doesn’t have a cure, physical therapy and other strategies can reduce its impact. 

Orthopaedic Surgical Consultants serves the Northwest Indiana region, including Munster, Crown Point, St. John, and Dyer. At the office in Merrillville, Indiana, our expert orthopedists and physical therapists are ready to make your life more comfortable as you manage your lymphedema. 

Here are the most common causes:

1. A sedentary lifestyle

Exercising has a multitude of benefits for your health and wellness. One of them is keeping your blood and lymph fluid flowing. When you avoid exercises like running, walking, swimming, or cycling, the lack of activity can cause lymphedema. 

2. Traumatic injuries

Traumatic injuries, such as sports injuries and car accident injuries, often result in extensive damage to muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. While you may be focused on bone fractures or muscle strains, the lymphatic system often withstands damage, too. 

The vessels of your lymphatic system are located directly under your skin and can easily be crushed or damaged by physical trauma. Even severe burns can damage the lymphatic system. When lymphatic flow is then reduced, lymphedema can occur. 

3. Heart and blood vessel issues

Your heart, blood vessels, and lymphatic system are closely connected. When there’s a blockage or defect in your cardiovascular system that reduces blood flow, lymphatic flow struggles too. Conditions like congestive heart failure, deep vein thrombosis, and varicose veins can all lead to swelling. 

4. Cancer treatments

Radiation therapy and cancer surgeries, like lymph node removal, can result in damage to the lymphatic system, leading to lymphedema. Cancer itself can also lead to lymphedema as a tumor grows or spreads. 

Among cancer patients, lymphedema is most common in breast cancer patients who have had mastectomy surgery and lymph node removal. You can experience lymphedema with pelvic cancers, melanoma, lymphoma, and many others. 

Should you seek treatment?

Lymphedema doesn’t have a cure, but it is manageable if you treat the underlying cause. Physical therapy and regular exercise help you keep your blood and lymphatic fluid flowing. Compression garments can place pressure on your tissues to reduce swelling. 

Our team of physicians and physical therapists can work with you to reduce the swelling and prevent possible complications, like skin infections or reduced mobility. If you have lymphedema, don’t hesitate to reach out over the phone or book an appointment online at Orthopaedic Surgical Consultants. 

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