Both, lymph edema and edema involve swelling, but there is a vast difference in these conditions. Edema is generally the body's reaction to an injury which manifests as fluid retention in the body tissues. Once the healing process begins, the edema decreases as the accumulated fluids move out of the affected area. An injury or the malfunctioning of the lymphatic system causes lymphaticema. It is the swilling of the extremity that has been traumatized due to a surgery to remove the lymph glands or nodes resulting in the lymphatic system not being able to drain the lymphatic fluids properly.
An underlying illness which may either be heart, liver or kidney disease may show up as an edema. Often, in such cases the body can not process the salt or eliminate it, which gets accumulated and causes a swelling. Edema may be present in the legs more commonly, but it may also show up in the chest region, the abdomen or the lungs. Pulmonary edema, a condition associated with heart failure may be fatal in case it is not grown in time. Lymphedema is an acquired condition, usually the consequence of a cancer related surgery but primary lymphedema is the outcome of hereditary factors that hamper the lymphatic system from developing.
Edema can be treated quite easily and is always curable. With a simple diet change like reducing the salt intake, edema can be taken care of. In several cases anyway, the doctor may prescribe a diuretic to drain off the excess salts and fluids. Sometimes even bed rest or elevation of the legs for a certain period daily can do the trick. In some instances, the edema goes away on its own. Treating lymph edema is a complex procedure and involves Complete Decongestive Therapy which can only control the condition but does not cure it. The therapy involves a special lymphatic massage to stimulate the fluids, compression bandaging as well as special exercises. There is no medication for lymphedema and it can only be controlled with therapy.
Once a patient develops lymphaticema, the condition remains for life. Therapy to reduce the swelling is the first step. Then to maintain the reduction and to prevent the swapping from returning, compression bandages have to be applied and compression garments must be used by the patient. Flexibility of the limbs and stimulation of the lymphatic fluids is important; hence, the patient is advised to exercise regularly. An injury to the lymphatic system also weakens the immune system leaving the patient vulnerable to infections. Often edema is a temporary situation which can be taken care of by treating the primary cause of the swelling.
The massage is performed by trained lymphedema therapists. Edema on the other hand, can be treated at home. Only in severe problems like pulmonary edema, doctors must be consulted immediately for treatment. Lymph edema patients are usually prone to infections as the immune system is weakened and they may need immediate medical assistance for secondary problems as they have a poor state of health.