The treatment of breast cancer is the most common cause of lymphedema in the US. All over the world, lymphedema often occurs as a result of filariasis (a parasitic infection). Researchers have declared lymphedema as one of the most relatively underestimated, poorly understood, and least researched cancer complications or its treatment. Indeed, there are other possible causes of the condition, such as postoperative weight gain and obesity. Lymphedema is easily noticeable in someone when a part or all of their entire leg or arm (including toes and fingers) becomes visually swollen. You can minimize the symptoms of the condition with natural remedies for lymphedema.
Table of Contents
You will learn the following from this post:
What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema, otherwise called lymphatic obstruction, is a long-term medical condition where excess fluid collects in tissues resulting in swelling (edema). The lymphatic system is a vital part of the immune system, essential for proper immune function. Fluid called lymph moves within the lymphatic system. Lymphedema is typically a result of the blockage of this system. Lymphedema often affects one of the legs or arms. In rare cases, it can affect both the legs and arms. In addition, some patients may experience swelling in their chest, genitals, or head. Although there is no known cure for lymphedema, you can control the condition with the proper treatment, such as natural remedies for lymphedema.
Types of Lymphedema
There are two significant types of lymphedema, and you can treat either with the natural remedies for lymphedema:
This is often called congenital lymphedema. The lymphedema is often noticeable shortly after puberty or even at birth. This type of lymphedema is a rare one and affects just approximately 1 in every 6,000 people.
This kind of lymphedema occurs because of something else, such as trauma, injury, infection, or cancer that affects the lymphatic system. In many cases, lymphedema is a side effect of a particular treatment for cancer, such as the removal of some lymph nodes or radiation therapy. Secondary lymphedema is more common than primary.
Causes of Lymphedema
Primary lymphedema may result from a mutation in some of the genes involved in the development of the lymphatic system. These affected genes interfere with the development of the lymphatic system, reducing its ability to drain fluid properly. Specific causes of this lymphedema include:
Milroy’s Disease (Congenital Lymphedema)
This kind of disorder often begins in infancy and may cause the lymph nodes to form abnormally.
Meige’s Disease (Lymphedema Praecox)
This disorder often results in lymphedema during pregnancy or around puberty. In some cases, lymphedema can occur at a later age, such as age 35.
Secondary lymphedema, however, has several possible causes, such as:
Cancer may take over the entire body through the lymphatic system. In some cases, surgeons will have to remove nodes to stop the spread of cancer. Unfortunately, this process may put the lymphatic system at risk, leading to lymphedema.
Using radiation to eliminate cancerous tissue may sometimes affect nearby healthy tissue, such as the lymphatic system, which can eventually result in lymphedema. The symptoms of lymphedema resulting from cancer treatment may not be evident until months or even years after treatment has ended.
Severe cellulitis infection may also affect the tissue surrounding the lymph nodes or vessels. This may result in scarring, increasing the risk of lymphedema. The risk of lymphedema may also increase due to some parasite infections.
Conditions that result in tissue swelling may permanently destroy the lymphatic system; such conditions may be eczema and rheumatoid arthritis.
These are diseases that affect the flow of blood. Some patients with cardiovascular diseases (such as varicose veins, venous leg ulcers, and DVT – deep vein thrombosis) are more prone to developing lymphedema,
Injury and Trauma
This is rare, but it can occur. Severe skin burns or whatever results in excessive scarring may increase the risk of developing lymphedema.
If the lymphatic vessels become blocked by cancer cells, lymphedema may result. For example, a tumor growing around a lymph vessel or lymph node could swell enough to affect lymph fluid flow.
Once the mass index exceeds 50, then obesity-induced lymphedema of the lower extremities may occur. Obesity is a significant risk factor for lymphedema development.
Some research has discovered that lymphedema occurs more often in patients with rheumatoid disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
Generally, lymphedema affects the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system carries out three main functions:
Draining excess tissue fluid
It balances the fluid in the tissue and the fluid in the blood. This is known as fluid homeostasis.
It provides the body with solid immunity by helping its immune system fight against foreign bodies, such as bacteria.
The lymphatic system absorbs lipid nutrients from the intestine and moves them to the blood.
Any disruption to the lymphatic system may reduce its ability to drain fluid in the long term properly. Due to that, fluid can build up in various parts of the body. Lymphedema increases the risk of infection and other complications since the lymphocytes cannot get to the parts of the body the swelling is occurring.
Other common symptoms of lymphedema include the following:
- Thickening and hardening of the skin
- Recurring infections (such as cellulitis or lymphangitis)
- Restricted range of motion
- Aching or discomfort
- A feeling of tightness or heaviness
- Swelling of parts or all of your leg or arm, including toes and fingers
Swelling can vary from mild in the size of your leg or arm to severe changes that significantly affect the proper use of the limb.
Besides the limbs, lymphedema can also affect the trunk of the body. Lymphedema to the trunk area of the body is often a result of radiation therapy to the chest wall, which can lead to peripheral edema, which usually occurs in the irradiated breast for patients with breast cancer.
8 Natural Remedies for Lymphedema
Finding the proper treatment for chronic ailments like lymphedema can be a real challenge for many. This is why I have taken the time to inform you about several all-natural remedies that can significantly mitigate the effects of lymphedema. Consider the following natural remedies for lymphedema:
1. All-Natural Herbs
Herbs are generally popular for treating all kinds of health conditions. However, when it comes to lymphedema, there are several herbs you can use to reduce inflammation and also boost the flow of lymphatic fluids.
This contains gingerol, an essential property that has healing effects on those living with lymphedema. In addition to reducing swelling, ginger can also boost the immune system and make it healthy.
Butcher’s broom provides a range of remedies, from making the blood vessel more vital to improving circulation. This herb is also pretty effective for easing swollen lymph glands and reducing discomfort in the process.
This topical herb is perfect for optimizing the function of the lymphatic system. Also, a compound available in sweet clover can make the vessels stronger and increase the inflow of lymph fluid.
2. Diet and Exercise
Obesity is an excellent factor for increased risk of lymphedema because fatty tissues find it challenging to get the necessary nutrients to remain healthy. Therefore, an improved diet that focuses on foods that reduce inflammation may be excellent in reducing the risk of lymphedema.
Besides a great diet, exercise is another excellent method for treating the symptoms of lymphedema naturally. A gentle and regular exercise regimen can increase the flow of lymph fluids, maximizing the strength in limbs affected by fluid retention. However, it is essential to note that a doctor should review any significant lifestyle changes.
Using specialized massage techniques can also be essential in curing the symptoms of lymphedema. For example, if the lymph fluid becomes trapped under the skin, a good massage can help increase the fluid flow naturally while also decreasing painful swelling.
Before undergoing massage treatment, ensure that you visit a massage therapy that understands your disorder. There are also some restrictions about those that can receive massage therapy for the treatment of their lymphedema.
Some supplements and foods are great for removing toxins from your body. Therefore, detoxification is not only good for treating lymphedema but also essential for your overall health. Over time, toxins can build up in your lymph system, which may lead to blockage and a diminished immune system.
Detoxifying elements, such as teas and herbs, are available at many health food stores, and the substances should be taken regularly for the best effect. An alternative detoxification method is drinking the right amount of water each day. Water helps hydrate the body and can even be effective for weight loss, especially when you drink a glass before meals.
5. Practicing Healthy Skin Care
Since you are susceptible to skin infection, it is essential to practice healthy skincare. If you have fluid trapped in your tissues, bacteria will find it easier to flourish, grow, and cause infections. To avoid such complications, keep your nails, hair, and skin clean by using natural cosmetic products. You should also ensure that your skin is adequately moisturized by using healthy moisturizers like shea butter and coconut oil. If you can, desist from showering or bathing in hot water. In addition, ensure that you wear gloves whenever you garden or do other outdoor jobs to protect your skin. Also, keep your feet and toes clean and dry by wearing breathable cotton socks. Finally, consult your podiatrist if you notice that you have ingrown toenails because such nails can often cause infections.
6. Don’t Block Fluid Flow
Keeping your body fluid moving as optimally as possible is very important, especially in areas lymphedema may develop or in an affected limb.
The following tips are ways to encourage the healthy flow of bodily fluid:
- Avoid using elastic stockings with tight bands or bandages.
- Avoid using a blood pressure cuff on the affected arm.
- Ensure that the jewelry you wear is loose.
- Choose loose clothing without elastic or tight bands.
- Avoid carrying bags or other items on the arm affected.
- Always change your sitting position every 30 minutes.
- Avoid crossing your legs when you sit (this is especially not good for swollen legs because it impedes the healthy circulation of fluid)
7. Take Deep Breaths
Deep breathing is not only a practice for swimmers alone; you can also do it, especially if you are suffering from lymphedema because the practice helps stimulate the movement of lymph fluid in the body. However, to avoid light-headedness, do not take more than three deep breaths at a time.
8. Eat Right
What you eat or do not eat can go a long way in managing such health conditions as lymphedema. First, make a diet change that focuses on whole foods, anti-inflammatory foods – this means that you will have to take lots of vegetables and some fruits every day. Second, limit your intake of high-sodium, processed foods because they will only worsen fluid retention and swelling. Also, if you are a smoker, you should quit. Lastly, avoid the consumption of alcohol. All these wrong foods can adversely affect your health and increase your risk of developing lymphedema.
If you notice persistent swelling in your leg, arm, or any other part of your body, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. If your doctor has already diagnosed you with lymphedema, you should also revisit your doctor if you discover a sudden increase in the size of the area affected.
Moreover, if you also have signs of an infection (such as red streaks under the skin’s surface, fever, heat, swelling, pain, or redness), you should contact your doctor. Unfortunately, your condition may be more severe than what natural remedies for lymphedema may be able to correct.