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Due to a disorder in the lymphatic system, excess tissue fluid is insufficiently drained. Fluid build-up in the skin and underlying tissues causes (painful) swelling and stiffness.

Lymphedema gives a (lead) heavy feeling in the arms or legs, a feeling of tension around the wrists, fingers, ankles, elbows or knees, usually on the side of the body where the lymphatic system is damaged. Sometimes the swelling and nagging or stinging cause pain and stiffness in joints. This can limit movements and increase weight and body size.

Cause of lymphedema

The lymphatic system is a network of lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes, often called glands. They are part of our physical cleansing and defense system.

The lymphatic vessels collect the fluid in the cells between our organs. This tissue fluid flows through the lymphatic vessels to the lymph nodes, known as glands. These glands, which are mainly located in our groin, armpits and neck, filter, clean and disinfect the tissue fluid. They filter out waste materials such as damaged cells, viruses, fungi and bacteria and render any pathogens harmless. If parts of the lymphatic system are damaged or missing, the tissue fluid is not or only partially drained. The accumulating fluid causes swellings called lymphedema.

Types of lymphedem

In primary lymphedema, the abnormalities of the lymphatic system are congenital. The edema often only develops after trauma (stepping, overload, etc.) or surgery.

Secondary lymphedema is caused by external influences, such as a (wound rose) infection, severe burning of the skin or an open bone fracture. Secondary lymphedema can also result from radiation (cancer treatment) or surgery that damages the lymphatic system.

Lymphedema can be aggravated by extreme cold and extreme heat. The same applies to sunburn, insect bites, infected wounds or other infections and pinching clothing.

How can you treat lymphedema?

The skin therapist can treat the complaints by applying edema therapy. Therapeutically elastic stockings can also be fitted.

Reimbursement by health insurers

Edema therapy is (partly) reimbursed by most insurance companies. Ask your skin therapist for advice if you are unsure whether a certain treatment is reimbursed

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