What is Lymphedema | Symptoms | Diagnosis | Treatment

Have you ever experienced swelling after suffering from chronic illness or undergoing any surgical procedures? If yes, this swelling can be painful and restricts individuals from moving their extremities. It mainly happens due to lymphedema. You might be wondering what is lymphedema. 

Don’t worry; this article covers everything about lymphedema and how to cure it effectively.


What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema consists of two words: lymph refers to the lymphatic system of your body, and edema refers to swelling or obstruction. In simple terms, lymphedema is a condition where there is an obstruction of lymph nodes. It doesn’t allow the fluid (lymph) to circulate within your lymphatic system, which results in swelling or edema. Remember that the lymphatic system is a part of the immune system, and its disturbance can reflect upon your immunity.

Additionally, the swelling caused by lymphedema usually appears in one arm or limb. In complicated cases, you may see both arms or limbs are affected by lymphedema. In certain patients, lymphedema predisposes swelling in the chest, head, and even genitals.

How many Types of Lymphedema are there?

Now that you know what is lymphedema, let’s discuss its main types. There are two types of lymphedema, known as primary and secondary lymphedema.

Primary Lymphedema

Primary lymphedema happens when there is a mutation in the genes that are responsible for the development of the lymphatic system. It leads to an abnormally functional lymphatic system that does not drain your lymph (fluid) adequately.

Secondary Lymphedema

It usually occurs due to the presence of other inflammatory or infectious conditions such as cancers, arthritis, skin allergies, deep venous thrombosis (DVT), varicose veins, trauma, etc. Secondary lymphedema can also happen once you get radiation or chemotherapy for your cancer treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

After knowing what is lymphedema, you should understand the clinical characteristics of it. These include;

  • The presence of swelling in one part or whole leg or arm. It can spread to toes or fingers. 
  • Slight or severe enlargement of an affected limb due to swelling
  • Inability to wear watches or jewelry
  • Difficulty while changing clothes or shoes
  • Heaviness or tightness in the affected limbs
  • Failure to complete the full range of motion of affected limbs
  • Pain and discomfort in affected limbs
  • Numbness is often described as a pins and needles sensation in affected limbs.
  • Recurring skin infections that induce the growth of blisters or warts on affected limbs
  • Extreme hardening of the skin
  • Swelling within the neck or head
  • Tiredness or fatigue

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you might have developed lymphedema that needs to be diagnosed. 

How To Get Your Lymphedema Diagnosed?

Now that you know what is lymphedema and its symptoms, it’s important to get it diagnosed. Your healthcare professional will look into your symptoms to rule out lymphedema. Moreover, any obvious signs, such as swelling or limb enlargement, enable your healthcare provider to diagnose lymphedema.

Additionally, individuals who have undergone surgical procedures or taken cancer treatment are at higher risk of developing lymphedema.

To identify any blood clots or infections that might be blocking your lymph nodes, your doctor may ask you to run these routine tests:

  • CT Scan
  • MRI Scan
  • Doppler Ultrasound Scan
  • Lymphoscintigraphy is a specific test to detect lymphatic drainage by inducing radioactive dye into the lymphatic system and observing its movements on a nuclear scanner. 

When your diagnosis is confirmed, you should undergo treatment for lymphedema alongside taking lymphatic drainage massages.

How to Get Your Lymphedema Treated?

After knowing what is lymphedema, let’s talk about its common cures.

The primary purpose of lymphedema treatments is to release the fluid by inducing pressure on the affected parts.

Following are some of the treatments to manage your lymphedema:

Interactive physical therapy

Compression Garments

Compression garments, including stockings, wraps, or sleeves, are applied over your affected limbs. These garments help to induce pressure on the lymphatic tissues and release fluid (lymph) into circulation. It leads to decreased swelling in your limbs and prevents severe complications of lymphedema.

Compression Devices

Compression devices are automatic machines that enable you to put pressure on your swollen body parts with the help of sleeves, which are connected to pneumatic pumps. These pumps cause inflation and deflation at regular intervals to compress swollen tissues and release lymphedema.


Elevating your swollen body parts allows gravity to work on your tissues and drain fluid to reduce symptoms of lymphedema.

Multilayer Compression Bandaging

Once your physical therapist has performed manual lymphatic drainage massage on your affected areas, the next step is to undergo multilayer compression bandaging to minimize the swelling. Your physical therapist will apply multilayer compression bandaging by putting different amounts of pressure over your swollen parts. The bandages then compress your tissue to drain lymph into the circulation, which improves pain and discomfort related to lymphedema.

Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Lymph drain massage, commonly known as manual lymphatic drainage, is a treatment to overcome the swelling caused by chronic illnesses or surgical interventions. Also, it manages both types of lymphedema, either primary or secondary. 

The lymphatic drainage massage works by putting pressure on your swollen body parts manually to facilitate fluid (lymph) to release into patent lymph nodes.

Following are the common conditions where lymphatic drainage massages are required:

  • Cancer Surgery such as Mastectomy (breast removal surgery)
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Radiotherapy
  • Cellulitis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis 
  • Eczema 
  • Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Varicose Veins 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Skin Burns

Where To Get Effective Lymphatic Drainage Massages in NYC?

At MOCEAN Wellness Center in NYC, we have the resources, the finest equipment, and experienced physical therapists to provide adequate lymphatic drainage to our clients.

Our team ensures quality treatment throughout the procedure. We also offer red light therapy, cupping therapy, and manual therapy to cure our client’s wellness problems.

Therefore, book an appointment by contacting or visiting us at our longevity center in NYC to get effective manual lymphatic massages. 

Bottom Line

Getting swollen arms or legs is relatively common after facing chronic illnesses or undergoing any surgical interventions. Moreover, the symptoms of lymphedema can be discomforting for you to bear. However, the procedure of lymphatic drainage massages improves the swelling and increases your overall well-being.

Then we create a health plan tailored to your needs.

Based on the results, we develop a personalized treatment plan for each individual to promote optimal health. With 1-on-1 consultations, cutting-edge technology, and a team of experts who care about getting you better, MOCEAN offers you a comprehensive road map on how to become the healthiest version of yourself.