If you’ve ever experienced swelling in your legs or arms, after a quick google search, you may have wondered whether you were suffering from Venous Edema or Lymphedema.
Both are very different conditions with different names and treatment methods, but their similar presentation can be confusing.
This article looks at the similarities and differences between lymphedema and venous edema.
1. What is Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is abnormal, chronic swelling in one or more of an individual’s extremities. This swelling is caused by an impaired flow in the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is made of a specialized network of vessels that help collect excess lymph fluid from the body. After it has collected the excess lymph fluid it filters it through the lymph nodes.
However, if the lymphatic system is not functioning properly, then the body will react to the excess lymph fluid and swell.
2. What is Venous Edema?
Venous Edema, also known as chronic venous insufficiency, is a disease of the veins that spreads to the lymphatics.
This causes a chronic leakage of venous fluid into the tissues which then compromises lymphatic function. This condition causes your leg veins to not allow blood to travel back up to the heart.
Venous Edema can cause this blood that is not travelling towards the heart to flow backwards and collect or pool in the legs.
Although venous edema can affect any part of your body, you may notice it more in your hands, arms, feet, ankles and legs.
3. What Causes Lymphedema?
Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment. Lymphedema results from a blockage in your lymphatic system, which is part of your immune system.
The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and the fluid buildup leads to swelling.
Read 7 Things You Need to Know About Lymphedema and Breast Cancer to learn more about the relationship between lymphedema and breast cancer.
There are two types of Lymphedema, Primary and Secondary:
Primary Lymphedema is caused by an anatomical abnormality which is a rare and inherited condition. Secondary Lymphedema is the result of damage or an obstruction to the lymph vessels and nodes.Speak to Our Lymphedema Specialist
4. What Causes Venous Edema?
There are several causes of Venous Edema.
Some of these include being overweight, pregnant, lack of exercise, smoking, high blood pressure, medication, previous leg injuries, as well as a family history of the issue.
Venous Edema can also be a sign of a larger issue such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, or cirrhosis of the liver.
5. What are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?
There are several different symptoms of lymphedema, including:
- Heaviness or pain in an arm or leg
- Long-lasting swelling in the arm, leg, or breast following radiation or surgery
- Decreased range of motion in the affected limb
- Hardening and/or discoloration of the skin in the affected area
Read What Happens When You Leave Lymphedema Untreated to learn more about the progression and treatment of lymphedema.
6. What are the Symptoms of Edema?
There are several symptoms associated with Venous Edema, including:
- Swelling in your legs or ankles
- Tight feeling in your calves or itchy, painful legs
- Pain when walking that stops when you rest
- Brown-colored skin, often near the ankles
- Varicose veins
- Leg ulcers that are sometimes hard to treat
- Having an uncomfortable feeling in your legs and an urge to move your legs (restless legs syndrome)
- Painful leg cramps or muscle spasms (charley horse)
If you are experiencing any, or several, of these symptoms it is important to visit your doctor to see what is going on.
7. What Is the Bottomline?
Even though both Lymphedema and Venous Edema are conditions that involve swelling, they have different causes and therefore need different treatment.
It is important that a doctor determines which you have so that the treatment method that best suits you is selected.
There are also several suggested methods for treating Lymphedema and Venous Edema, including:
- Exercise programs
- Compression garments (check with a medical professional before using)
- Wound and skincare
- Adaptation of activities of daily living
- Training on how to follow precautions and use life-long self-management techniques
If you are looking for a compression garment, visit the team at ADAPT Home Health Care* today! We carry a wide range of compression therapy garments.
* ADAPT Home Health Care is an ADP Approved Vendor. Speak to one of our specialists if you’re in the GTA for more information.
Are you in the GTA?
If you live in the Greater Toronto Area, you can book an online consultation with our Certified Lymphedema Specialist. Maria will be able to answer your questions, such as:
- What is the process for diagnosis and treatment in Ontario?
- What preventative measures can I take?
- How do I know this is lymphedema and not another kind of swelling?
- How do I apply for government (ADP) funding and what does it cover?
- What type of compression sleeves do I need?