Edema is a symptom. Lymphedema is a disease. What does this mean for you?
Lymphedema is an abnormal accumulation of water and protein (swelling) in the superficial tissues of the body. The most common cause of lymphedema is surgical interventions that involve the lymphatic system, i.e. breast cancer surgery and removal of lymph nodes. However, this can also occur early in life, during and after treatment for other types of cancer, after trauma, or after a blood clot. Lymphedema is also common in developing countries because of parasites carried by different types of mosquitoes. This swelling will progress if not treated. Currently there is no cure for lymphedema.
Research shows that 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer during the course of their lives. 75% of these women will seek traditional treatment, including surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation. Of this percentage of women, 42% will develop some degree of lymphedema at 1-year post-treatment and 50-75% at 5-years. The incidence of lymphedema is 140-250 million worldwide and 2-3 million in the US.
Lymphedema is treated with Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and involves 4 components: Skin Care, Manual Lymph Drainage, Compression, and Decongestive Exercise.