Lymphedema is a chronic condition that shows up as an abnormal buildup of fluid, causing swelling or edema, most commonly in the arms or legs. There are two types of lymphedema, known as primary lymphedema and secondary lymphedema.
Primary lymphedema has no known direct cause but may result from inherited problems with the lymph vessels. Secondary lymphedema, on the other hand, results from damage to the lymph nodes or lymph vessels caused by another condition or treatment. Secondary lymphedema typically results from surgery related to cancer treatment and/or radiation therapy where the lymph nodes have been affected.
How do you manage Lymphedema?
There is no cure for lymphedema, and without proper management/treatment, lymphedema can become a debilitating disease. Lymphedema treatment focuses on reducing the swelling and controlling the pain. Treatments to minimize swelling include: manual lymph drainage (MLD), exercises, staying hydrated, wrapping your arm or leg, and the regular use of wearing compression garments.
Many people with lymphedema struggle with the idea of having to wear compression stockings or arm sleeves for life. Luckily, compression products have come a long way, with options that are comfortable and stylish while still providing medical efficacy. Garments come in an array of colors and patterns so a person’s individuality can still be expressed and not extinguished.
How to stay connected while fighting a lifelong illness?
March is Lymphedema Awareness Month during which the clinical, patient, and advocacy communities, as well as the private sector, join forces to increase awareness of this chronic condition. It is a time to spread the word and raise awareness for a chronic condition, focusing on bringing light to the symptoms, treatments, as well as support options related to lymphedema.
March 6 is World Lymphedema Day, which is celebrated every year to educate the public about this condition that affects somewhere between 150-250 million people worldwide. The number of Americans living with lymphedema is estimated at 5-10 million, though because the condition is often undiagnosed or under-diagnosed, this number could be higher.
The First Lymphedema Day
The Founder of the National Lymphedema Network, Saskia RJ Thiadens, started Lymphedema Day to promote awareness and honor the struggles of those living with lymphedema. Why March 6 you may wonder? This is the date that the National Lymphedema Network was incorporated as the first nonprofit organization dedicated to lymphedema. This has turned into a global movement where everyone is united in celebrating World Lymphedema Day.
How can you get involved?
- Local Events: Get involved in your local community and online.
- Online Advocacy: The lymphedema community has a very strong online presence. Join a Facebook group or search on Twitter and Instagram to connect with others who either have lymphedema or are directly connected to someone who has lymphedema. People from all over the world are sharing their journeys through blogs and social media to support one another.
- Here at medi, we want you to share your lymphedema story for a chance to win a free garment during the month of March! Provide a short biography about yourself and your story.
There is one more exciting reason to celebrate this March because the Lymphedema Treatment Act passed! The Lymphedema Treatment Act is a federal law passed on December 23, 2022, that will go into effect on January 1, 2024, to improve Medicare insurance coverage for the medically necessary, doctor-prescribed compression supplies that are the cornerstone of lymphedema treatment.
With this new law, insurance coverage will improve for prescribed medical compression supplies and it will reduce total healthcare costs with lymphedema.