In the human body there are not only arteries and veins, but also lymphatic vessels, through which the tissue fluid - lymph flows. It is a clear or light yellow liquid flowing from the capillaries into the tissue. Lymph can be seen, for example, if you scratch your skin or rip off the scab, a colorless liquid appears. In the lymphatic system there are many lymph nodes that have to perform various functions - filtration, protective and accumulative.
If the lymph flow slows down or stops completely in some place, the tissue fluid begins to accumulate in the hand or leg of that side. This condition is called lymphostasis, or elephantiasis. The main symptom of this disease is edema of the affected limb, which sharply increases in volume, the skin thickens, rough folds are formed.
- Swelling of the lower or upper extremities.
- Feeling of pressure and heaviness in an unhealthy limb.
- Coarsened thickened skin.
- Deep transverse folds at the toes.
- Significant increase in the affected limb in the late stage of the disease.
Lymphostasis-mediated lymphedema can be primary or secondary. Primary lymphedema is a hereditary lymphedema or only sporadically manifested elephantiasis. Secondary - more often local edema, usually observed after frequent inflammation, chronic circulatory disorders, also in patients with chronic diseases, due to which lymph nodes are affected (for example, tuberculosis, cancer).
In addition, lymph circulation may be disrupted after radiotherapy, as well as after the removal of important regional lymph nodes (usually due to cancer).
The affected limb is lifted upward, pre-tightly bandaged with an elastic bandage. Apply therapeutic physical exercises. If these methods do not bring the desired result, you have to operate. The patient is being transplanted by the lymph nodes, trying to ensure the outflow of lymph from the affected part of the body. In certain cases, remove the body tissue, and then transplant the skin. With hereditary lymphedema for treatment use tight elastic stockings and bandage with elastic bandage.
With elephantiasis, the patient can not help himself.
If the swelling of your hands or feet does not go away for a long time, you should consult your doctor.
Edema can also occur as a result of a violation of venous circulation, so the doctor first of all will find out which system is affected. When suspected of lymphostasis, two methods of investigation are used. In one case, a special dye solution is injected under the skin. In the absence of lymphostasis, small superficial lymphatic vessels are dyed blue. Meanwhile, with lymphostasis, the pigment under the skin resembles a "blue cloud". However, in diagnostics it is more reliable to use modern nuclear medicine. When this method is used, radioactive substances are introduced into the lymphatic system. And then scintigraphy is performed (during which splashes of light in the tissues of radioactive particles appear, they are counted by means of a special counter), thanks to which accurate data on lesions of the lymphatic system are obtained.
There are three stages of lymphedema. At the first stage, changes can still be reversible - there is a painless swelling of the arm or leg. In the second stage, the changes are irreversible. The skin becomes rough, thickens, there is a feeling of pressure and heaviness. At the third stage of the disease, the affected limb is significantly enlarged and deformed.