What is Lymphoedema?

What is Lymphoedema?

Lymphoedema is an abnormal, chronic swelling of a body part/s caused by a collection of lymphatic fluid in the tissues below the skin. Research has shown that when lymph fluid is not cleared, it stimulates stem cells in adipose (fat) tissue to create more fat cells.

It is not yet clear what exactly causes this development of additional fat tissue, but it is known as the ‘adipogenic factor’ in lymph. Thus lymphoedema consist of protein-rich lymph fluid as well as additional adipose tissue.
Lymphoedema can range from mild swelling of a limb to complications such as recurrent infection (cellulitis), wounds, an effect on the musculoskeletal system.

The lymphatics are a vital part of the cardiovascular system which has been somewhat poorly understood and managed. It is, however, now a key focus in research and the understanding of lymphatic pathology and management is improving significantly.

One needs a working lymphatic system for survival. The lymphatics drain a protein rich fluid from around all the cells in the body, passing through lymph nodes to ensure there is no infection or foreign substance that needs to be managed by the body - it thus has an essential immune function. The intestinal lymphatics also have a vital role in lipid absorption. Lastly, the lymph plays a crucial role in fluid metabolism and fluid homeostasis. Lymph vessels start as thin walled capillaries which progress to larger vessels and have valves within them to prevent backflow.

The way lymph moves is remarkable as well; the lymph relies on:

  • Contraction of muscles and blood vessels in close proximity to lymph vessels
  • Changes in thoracic pressure with breathing
  • Biochemical changes in the body
  • Lymphangions - tiny electrical little ‘lymph hearts’ along the lymph vessels

Thus, in addition to the body being nutritionally replete, exercise and correct breathing& posture are all important in lymph health.

OptiVein’s International Vein & Lymphatic Network
Dr Redman is connected to world experts on an academic, clinical and personal level via the International Vein Network.

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What is Lymphoedema?