How Lymphedema Happens

What Lymphedema Is

In the simplest terms, Lymphedema happens when there is more fluid and protein in an area of the body than can be carried away effectively by the lymphatic system, resulting in a backup of fluid. 

This is similar to when traffic gets gridlocked downtown at 5 PM when everyone is trying to get out and use the freeway system to get back to the suburbs.  The freeways can only accommodate so many cars at once, so there is a backup of traffic.

lymphedema is like gridlock

What Lymphedema Is

In the simplest terms, Lymphedema happens when there is more fluid and protein in an area of the body than can be carried away effectively by the lymphatic system, resulting in a backup of fluid.
lymphedema is like gridlock

This is similar to when traffic gets gridlocked downtown at 5 PM when everyone is trying to get out and use the freeway system to get back to the suburbs.  The freeways can only accommodate so many cars at once, so there is a backup of traffic.

lymphedema is like collapsed street infrastructure
How Lymphedema Happens

Lymphedema is Congestion

As in traffic congestion, lymphatic backup (congestion) can be further complicated by other issues. 

In heavy traffic, for example, collisions can happen which further slow down the return of commuters to the suburbs. 

In addition to these wrecks on the highways, imagine what it would be like if there were failures to major parts of highway infrastructure – like key bridges collapsing.  

Collapsed infrastructure causes further traffic jams just like damaged (or missing/malformed) lymphatics cause backed up lymph that results in swelling. 

This is what happens in lymphedema when there is fluid backup.  Everyone is stuck in the city trying to get home, but there are very few, small functional routes (backroads) to get them there.  So, people end up just sitting and waiting clogging up the roads.

 

Lymphedema is Congestion

As in traffic congestion, lymphatic backup (congestion) can be further complicated by other issues. In heavy traffic, for example, collisions can happen which further slow down the return of commuters to the suburbs.

lymphedema swelling is like traffic congestion

In addition to these wrecks on the highways, imagine what it would be like if there were failures to major parts of highway infrastructure – like key bridges collapsing.  

Collapsed infrastructure causes further traffic jams just like damaged (or missing/malformed) lymphatics cause backed up lymph that results in swelling.

lymphedema is like collapsed street infrastructure

This is what happens in lymphedema when there is fluid backup.  Everyone is stuck in the city trying to get home, but there are very few, small functional routes (backroads) to get them there.  So, people end up just sitting and waiting clogging up the roads.

Lymphedema is When

Fluid Goes Crazy

In Lymphedema, when protein molecules get stuck in the interstitium (space between the cells) and can’t get back out via the lymphatic system, more fluid (also containing protein) rushes out of the circulatory system (blood/heart) to join it. 

This is like people looking out of their office windows and seeing total gridlock, yet rushing to their cars and driving on the sidewalks and through the medians so that all possible space is congested. 

lymphedema is when fluid goes crazy
Lymphedema is like the ultimate gridlock.
piled up cars are like advanced-stage lymphedema

Think That’s Bad?  

It Gets Even Crazier

Going along with this analogy, imagine that neighboring cities started airlifting cars into the gridlocked city and started piling them up on top of the existing gridlocked cars, building higher, and higher, and higher. 

The volume of cars keeps increasing, but there is still nowhere for them to go.  This is similar to how arms and legs become swollen.

There’s constant transport of fluid and protein to the affected area, but there is no way to get out.  The more protein that is there, the harder the body works to bring more fluid to the area – and that fluid has more protein.

Think That’s Bad?  

It Gets Even Crazier

Going along with this analogy, imagine that neighboring cities started airlifting cars into the gridlocked city and started piling them up on top of the existing gridlocked cars, building higher, and higher, and higher. 

The volume of cars keeps increasing, but there is still nowhere for them to go.  This is similar to how arms and legs become swollen.

piled up cars are like advanced-stage lymphedema

There’s constant transport of fluid and protein to the affected area, but there is no way to get out.  The more protein that is there, the harder the body works to bring more fluid to the area – and that fluid has more protein.

Recover Faster. 
Feel Better Today.

Pain & Swelling Solutions
135 Madison St NE   Albuquerque
Shannon Goins, Certified Lymphedema Therapist - Pain & Swelling Solutions, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Certified Cupping Therapist
Shannon Goins
Certified Lymphedema Therapist
Terapeuta linfática certificada

Recuperarse más rápido.
Sentirse mejor hoy.

Doy la bienvenida a los clientes que hablan español.

Si habla usted español, por favor envíeme un mensaje de texto o correo electrónico en español.

No hablo mucho español, pero estoy aprendiendo.

Puedo comunicarme contigo usando el traductor de google. Muchos de mis clientes no hablan inglés y no tengo problemas para comunicarme con ellos.

Recover Faster. 
Feel Better Today.

Shannon Goins, Certified Lymphedema Therapist - Pain & Swelling Solutions, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Certified Cupping Therapist
Shannon Goins
Certified Lymphedema Therapist
Terapeuta linfática certificada

Recuperarse más rápido.
Sentirse mejor hoy.

Doy la bienvenida a los clientes
que hablan español.

Si no habla inglés, envíeme un mensaje de texto o correo electrónico en español.

¡No hablo mucho español, pero estoy aprendiendo!

Puedo comunicarme contigo usando el traductor de google. Muchos de mis clientes no hablan inglés y no tengo problemas para comunicarme con ellos.

Pain & Swelling Solutions
135 Madison St NE   Albuquerque

Infrastructure Breakdown

The longer the cars are stuck in gridlock and the harder the city works to move them back to the suburbs, the more that the roads become broken down and riddled with potholes until they are no longer functional.  In the lymphatic system, this shows up as valves that fail to close to keep fluid from moving back toward the swollen area, and the inability for the lymphatic vessels to contract to help propel fluid in the right direction.

The city is still hard at work trying to remove the cars from the roads, and as it does so, it tries to make permanent repairs to the roads using stronger materials. 

Fibrosis Sets In

In the lymphatic system, this is somewhat similar to fibrosis, or the creation of thick scar tissue.  This is what causes the tissue of an affected area (usually an arm or a leg) to harden permanently.  In addition to the fibrosis, the body lays down layers of fat.

Treatment

The good news is that there is treatment for lymphedema.  Complete Decongestive Therapy is a series of steps to restore the body to a more normal state.  

It involves three steps 1) Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) or Electro-Lymphatic Therapy  2) Compression Bandaging and 3) Garment Fitting for long-term wear garments.

Compression bandaging is an integral part of Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT)
Compression Bandaging
How Lymphedema Happens

Where to Get Help

Make an appointment with Pain & Swelling Solutions.  In addition to treatment, you will have the opportunity to learn a ton about lymphedema and how to manage it.

Visit our Resources Page to find out what organizations and books could help you.

Take a look at our Educational Info Page for more detailed information about what Lymphedema is.

Where to Get Help

Make an appointment with Pain & Swelling Solutions.  In addition to treatment, you will have the opportunity to learn a ton about lymphedema and how to manage it.

Visit our Resources Page to find out what organizations and books could help you.

Take a look at our Educational Info Page for more detailed information about what Lymphedema is.