Edema

An unnatural swelling of the body is usually called edema. There are three different varieties, and all are chronic which means they can be treated but not cured. The three are called venous edema, lymphedema and lip edema.

Venous edema

Swelling that occurs on the feet or at the ankles is called venous edema. Inside the veins are small flaps that help to move the blood properly from the feet and back to the heart. If these flaps do not work properly, blood will accumulate in the feet and a swelling will occur.

Lymphedema

When lymph fluid accumulates at one point in the body, a swelling called lymphedema occurs. It is most common for the swelling to occur in an arm or leg, but also face, neck and chest may be exposed. This condition may be congenital or occur in connection with the operation of lymph nodes. The lymphatic fluid that is to be transported in the body becomes more difficult to pass through because the lymph nodes are damaged or removed, and instead accumulate in one and the same place. The swelling thus consists of fluid that has accumulated.

Lipoedema

Lipedema is similar to lymphedema, but is symmetrical. Here the swelling occurs in both arms or both legs. The symptoms are the same as examination and treatment.

Symptoms

The first warning is usually shown by the skin becoming tighter and thicker. After this, an unnatural swelling, numbness in the swollen body part, aches and reduced mobility occur as typical symptoms. A swelling that is not examined can be so great that pain can also occur in nearby body parts. If you have these symptoms, you should contact your health care provider immediately. If the pain is very severe or if the swelling has occurred rapidly, contact the emergency department.

Investigation

When you visit a doctor because of a sore swelling, you first have to undergo a regular body examination. If the doctor suspects lymphedema, then the flow of the lymphatic tissues is measured using a lymph scintigraphy. You will then receive a substance that is slightly radioactive injected under the skin. Then you can follow the flow of the fluid and see how it moves in the lymph vessels. This way you can see if the vessels are damaged in any way.

Treatment

The sooner you start a treatment, the faster the symptoms disappear. Treatment of lymphedema consists of compressing tissues around the swelling itself, and this is most easily done with compression stockings. A compression stocking sits much harder than a support stocking and can therefore compress the tissue in a much more efficient way. Massage can also relieve and reduce the swelling. Lubricating right where the swelling is is also important. Otherwise, the skin may become so tense that it ruptures and an infection may then occur where the swelling is present. Lying with the affected body part in high position can help ease, and the pain will not be as noticeable. If none of this helps, an operation is necessary.

To think of

It is important that you keep an eye on the exposed body part and have an awareness of how severe the swelling is. This way you can avoid the discomfort the edema can cause if it gets bigger. Once you have been diagnosed you can think of using compression stocking, massage the exposed body part and keep it in high position.

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