Swelling in the arms and legs, a symptom that should not be underestimated

Swelling in the arms and legs, a symptom that should not be underestimated
Swelling in the arms and legs, a symptom that should not be underestimated

It is the so-called lymphedema, a pathology that can affect any person at any age.

There is a part of our body that, although very important for the health of the organism, is often ignored. It is the lymphatic system, a dense network of vessels and lymph nodes in which the lymph flows, an organic liquid that has two main tasks: to promote the immune response and to reabsorb the toxic substances present in the tissues to transport them and pour them into the bloodstream with which they are then deleted. “Due to a malfunction of the lymphatic system – says Domenico Corda, surgeon, physiatrist and lymphologist at Humanitas Medical Care in Bergamo – it may happen that the lymph, instead of flowing regularly, accumulates in some parts of the body such as legs, arms , neck, face and genitals, causing them to swell. It is the so-called lymphedema, a pathology that can affect any person at any age ».

The causes of this accumulation are various and are not always identifiable. “Problems with the lymphatic system can derive from congenital malformations, that is present from birth, or from injuries caused by particular events such as infections, trauma or surgery – adds Dr. Corda -. Sometimes, especially in the lower limbs, lymphatic pathology can also be associated with venous pathologies that lead to the formation of the so-called “phlebolymphedema” because it is linked to a double functional insufficiency, venous and lymphatic ».

The first sign / symptom of the presence of a lymphedema is a localized swelling that initially occurs in the evening and which progresses by increasing in volume, then persisting also at night. The heaviness of the limbs and the difficulty in walking are other symptoms that accompany the marks left by rings, bracelets, sandals and socks. With the worsening of the edema, in the absence of appropriate therapy, the skin becomes increasingly hard, may present redness, signs of infection and, in the most advanced stages, lesions up to ulcers. “It is important not to underestimate the first symptoms – warns the specialist – and promptly undergo a lymphological examination: swelling that is not treated correctly, although initially mild, can become chronic and progressive and lead to tissue and clinical complications of a certain complexity and gravity “.

Once the problem has been identified, the treatment process requires complex decongestion physiotherapy performed by experienced rehabilitation personnel. «The first objective is to cure the skin – concludes Dr. Corda – by treating any lesions that may already be present; at the same time, we try to reactivate the lymphatic circulation, and therefore the reabsorption of the lymph, both with a particular manual massage and with specific muscle exercises performed wearing special pressure-controlled bandages. Once the edema has been reduced, tailor-made therapeutic elastic garments are prescribed ”.


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