Related Terms: Primary lymphedema, Secondary lymphedema, Cancer, Injury, Trauma, Lymph Nodes FOXC2, VEFGC, CCBE1, GATA2, GJC2, SOX18, Lymphatics, Small Needle Biopsy, leg swelling, arm swelling, lymphangitis, cellulitis, erysipelas, Lymphtic Filariasis, Malignant Lymphedema,
There is no one specific “cause” of lymphedema. The gamut ranges from genetic mutations, in vitro damage or malformation to any trauma or damage.
If you have any of the below risk factors for lymphedema, you should also familiarize yourself with the warning signs of lymphedema.and take time to read our page How To Diagnose Lymphedema. I would also very strongly suggest, for your own well being that should you have any of the warning signs, be proactive. Get a referral to a certified lymphedema therapist. for a complete evaluation.
The cause of hereditary primary lymphedema has been isolated to a malformation or break in two known genes. These are the FOXC2 and VEGFC genes. There are now identified several genes involved in causing lymphedema. These include not only FOXC2 and VEGFC, but CCBE1, FLT4, GATA2, GJC2 and SOX18. There are more that have yet to be identified. Causes of congenital primary lymphedema can be a developmental disorder of the lymphatics, in utero infection, or injury and/or delivery difficulties.
The causes of secondary lymphedema are multiple. Infections from insect bites, serious wounds, or burns can cause lymphedema when they damage or destroy lymphatics. Any type of surgery, serious injury, or radiation for cancer treatments can also cause the onset of the disease. Outside the tropics, the number one cause of secondary lymphedema is the removal of lymph nodes for cancer biopsies. For these patients, it can begin as a slight arm or leg swelling after cancer. Left untreated, it can become a serious and debilitating medical condition. Hopefully, with the improved techniques of performing a small needle biopsy, radiological diagnostic improvements, and site-specific node biopsies, we will see a marked decrease in this type of lymphedema.
In the tropical climates, the most common cause of lymphedma is infection from filarial worms. The worms are usually transmitted to humans by mosquito bites. This parasite then grows, eventually blocking and destroying the lymphatic system. This is called Lymphatic Filariasis.
It is important to distinguish the difference between secondary lymphedema and malignant lymphedema.
Who is at risk for lymphedema?
If you are a person with any of these risk factors, you will want to learn the warning signs of lymphedema.
The preferred treatment today is decongestive therapy. The forms of therapy are complete decongestive therapy (CDT) or manual decongestive therapy (MLD), there are variances, but most involve these two type of treatment.
It is a form of massage therapy where the leg is very gently massaged to actually move the fluid out of the leg and into an area where the lymph system still functions normally.
With these massage treatments, swelling is reduced and then the patient is fitted with a pre-measured custom pressure garment to keep the swelling down and/or is taught to use compression wraps to maintain the leg size.
Surgery may be necessary or even recommended for patients with Lymphatic Filariasis, but not for “regular” lymphedema.
Diuretics are also contraindicated unless there is a life threatening medical condition that require it, such as congestive heart failure.
Finally, while some herbs may help slightly, there are no homeopathic, or wholistic herbal or alternative medical treatments that will cure lymphedema. Remember, lymphedema is caused by an incomplete lymph system or as a result of a damaged lymph system. Unless these herbs and homeopathic treatments can either repair a damaged system, or cause an incomplete one to grow, they are a waste of time and money. They also have the potential of being very dangerous as they may counter act other medications and can be life threatening.