Illinois Vein Specialists

Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a build-up of excess protein-rich fluid in the body’s soft tissues or nodes.

These small structures in the body are a core element of your immune system because they filter and drain substances that help the body fight infection and diseases. They do this through muscle contractions as you move through the tasks of your day. Lymphedema occurs when this network of vessels is damaged or blocked and unable to adequately drain. This causes pain and swelling in your legs.

When severe, lymphedema can affect your ability to move, increase the risks of skin infections and sepsis, which can lead to skin changes and breakdown. If you are experiencing persistent swelling in your leg, you should see Dr. Perlmutter and the IVS medical team immediately.

Causes of Lymphedema

Lymphedema-55yo-M

Although less common, lymphedema may also be caused by other conditions and lymphatic diseases which impact the lymphatic system.

Signs & Symptoms:

  • Swelling in the legs
  • A decrease in your range of motion or difficulty in moving the leg
  • An increased number of infections
  • A lingering feeling of tightness or heaviness in your legs
  • Fibrosis, or thickening of the skin with or without skin changes such as blisters or warts
  • A feeling of tightness when wearing clothing or shoes
  • Itching of the legs or toes
  • A burning feeling in the legs
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Loss of hair

Daily activities and the ability to work or enjoy hobbies may be affected by lymphedema. These symptoms may occur very slowly over time or more quickly if there is an infection or injury to the leg. Without treatment, lymphedema may also cause sepsis, skin infections, and in rare cases, untreated lymphedema can also lead to cancer.

Risk factors

  • Older age
  • Excess weight or obesity
  • Rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis

    Treatment

    To determine if you have lymphedema, Dr. Perlmutter performs a comprehensive physical exam. This may include an ultrasound to see if you have Chronic Venous Hypertension which could be contributing to your Lymphedema. 

    While there is no cure for lymphedema, IVS provides several methods of treatment to reduce the pain and swelling to prevent more serious complications such as:

    • Compression bandages or stockings
    • Massage to put pressure on the limbs and move lymph fluid away from the fingers or toes.
    • Exercises of the affected limb to promote circulation 
    • Sequential pneumatic pump
    • Careful skincare

    If you or a loved one believe you may be suffering from lymphedema, please schedule an appointment with us for a proper diagnosis.

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