Lymphedema may manifest as swelling of one or more limbs and may include the corresponding quadrant of the trunk. Swelling may also affect other areas, eg. head, neck, breast or genitalia.
Lymphedema is the result of accumulation of fluid and other elements (eg. proteins) in the tissue spaces due to an imbalance between interstitial fluid production and transport. It arises from congenital malformation of the lymphatic system, or damage to lymphatic vessels and/or lymph nodes.
Lymphedema is a chronic condition that is not curable at present, but may be alleviated by appropriate management; if not treated it can progress and become difficult to manage.
How many patients are affected?
At birth, around one person out of 6000 will develop primary Lymphedema; the overall prevalence of Lymphedema/chronic edema has been estimated as 0.13-2%. In developed countries, the main cause of Lymphedema is widely assumed to be treatment for cancer.
However, it appears that about a quarter to a half of affected patients suffer from other forms of Lymphedema, eg primary Lymphedema and Lymphedema associated with poor venous function, trauma, limb dependency or cardiac disease.
What are the risk factors?
The true risk factor profile for Lymphedema is not known. There may be many factors that predispose an individual to developing Lymphedema or that predict the progression, severity and outcome of the condition.
Classification of Lymphedema
Lymphedema is classified as primary or secondary.
- Primary Lymphedema is thought to be the result of a congenital abnormality of the lymph conducting system.
- Secondary or acquired Lymphedema results from damage to the lymphatic vessels and/or lymph nodes, or from functional deficiency. It may also be the result of high output failure of the lymphatic circulation.
Treatment of Lymphedema
Compression garments can be used as initial management in patients who have mild upper limb Lymphedema with minimal subcutaneous tissue changes and shape distortion. Where there is considerable soft pitting edema, Multi Layer Lymphedema Bandaging will be required to reduce and stabilize the swelling prior to the application of compression garments.
Lower pressure compression garments also have a role to play in managing symptoms in a palliative context.
How to minimize the risk of developing Lymphedema?
- Take good care of skin and nails
- A balanced diet
- Maintain optimal body weight
- Avoid tight underwear, clothing, watches and jewelry
- Wear comfortable supportive shoes
- Undertake exercise/movement and limb elevation
- Avoid injury at risk
- Avoid exposure to extreme cold or heat
- Use high factor sunscreen and insect repellent
- Wear compression garments if prescribed or recommended
SIGVARIS provides several types of compression products to treat and relieve patients with lymphedema. For lower limb lymphedema, compression socks or stockings are available at different compression levels. Speak with your doctor about treatment solutions.
SIGVARIS ADVANCE® armsleeve is SIGVARIS newest answer to the treatment of lymphedema of the upper limbs. This product has been designed with and for the patient. The texture of SIGVARIS ADVANCE® is made of polyamide microfiber. Apart from its soft texture, this innovation microfiber incorporates a bacteriostatic additive. The non-organic agent contains silver ions that protects the skin and the knitting from bacteria multiplication. The non-bactericidal agent keeps the natural saprophytic flora of the skin. Therefore, SIGVARIS ADVANCE® contributes in maintaining good skin hygiene of the arm suffering from lymphedema. Similar to cotton, the thermoregulating viscose has the greater advantage of a better absorption of skin moisture which provides a new comfort highly appreciated by patients. The choice of natural color developed together with patients, the fine sewing reducing skin irritation, help patients with their compliance. In addition, SIGVARIS ADVANCE® armsleeve with mitten is the only armsleeve product that matches the International Best Practice guidelines - the mitten having the same compression level as the armsleeve.