Healthy Living: Lymphedema
In the United States, the cause of lymphedema is usually associated with breast cancer surgery and radiation, but not always. YNN's Marcie Fraser tells us more about lymphedema and your lower extremities.
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Lymphedema can be caused by surgery, breast cancer, radiation, and even injury, but sometimes the cause is unknown.
"There'd be days I come home and couldn't put on pants. Not because I couldn't button, but I couldn't get them around my legs," said Timothy Delello, a lymphedema patient.
For years, Delello suffered from swollen, painful legs, elephantiasis, cellulitis, sores, and infections.
"The infection was creeping up to my thigh, and they actually had lines where they were going to cut my legs off," explained Delello.
Since 2005, he was treated for congestive heart failure.
He added, "My mom had it, they said I have it, this is life. They said you don't have congestive heart failure, what you got is called lymphedema, and I said, what is that?"
Lymphedema is the swelling of localized tissue caused by damaged or blocked lymphatic vessels, lymph fluid than backs up, causing extremely painful swelling.
"I was suicidal, I felt suicidal," said Delello.
The treatment of lymphedema is mostly physical therapy. Gentle massage is used to stimulate the lymphatic system, it is called complete decongestive therapy.
"There's manual lymph drainage where we put our hands on people, and actually stimulate the lymphatic system, we get rid of the protein. The way we can stimulate the lymphatic system by stretching the skin, it's because the lymphatic system is attached to the bottom layer of the skin," explained Kathryn Taylor-Anilowski, Kinder Touch Lymphedema Center Owner.
Other treatment includes skin care for sores, hydration, infections, wraps, and compression sleeves. While there is no cure for lymphedema, it can be managed, and the earlier you catch the condition and treat it, the better the outcome.
"It's under control, and it's manageable. I am thankful," said Delello.
His daughter has proved to be his biggest reward.
"She got away from me and ran through the mall. I was like, 'I have to catch her'. I thought I'd never be able to get to her, but I was able to catch up to her without any pain," Delollo said. "Just these little victories."