We’re used to hearing a lot of big numbers these days, from the just-about-conceivable multi-million pound lottery prizes to the amount of deforestation happening around the world each second. In an era where global statistical information is available at the touch of a button, it can all get a bit beyond us but one type of statistic that is always guaranteed to make people pay attention are those relating to human health.
You may not have heard of lymphedema before or have only recently done so, but more than 140 million people around the world suffer from the problem, variously known as lymphatic edema and lymphedema. With symptoms including fluid retention in a localised area and a related swelling of soft tissue leading to intense pain, it is a serious condition and research is steadily progressing to create new strategies in the specialised field.
The lymphatic system is one of the human body’s many unsung heroes and normally quietly gets on with its job of returning interstitial fluids to the thoracic duct, from which point it disperses naturally through the bloodstream. Like any other system, it can go wrong and a compromised lymphatic system means a lack of normal fluid drainage, causing the retention and swelling already mentioned as well as restricted blood flow and sore, discoloured skin.
There are many reasons that a person could be suffering lymphoedema, from defects present at birth to patients undergoing treatment for cancer and parasitic infections. Unfortunately there is currently no known cure and the condition is progressive but research and development is in place and, in the meantime, patients can be made as comfortable as possible and their symptoms ameliorated in a variety of ways.
Manual lymphatic drainage is often carried out and this is the ideal time to apply compressive bandaging, one of the best ways of relieving the pain and suffering associated with lymphoedema. Dynamic compression helps to keep any swelling under control and increases the chance of a positive patient outcome.
Lymphedema patients are just that: patient! Research, development and testing are notoriously long and drawn-out processes but it is in the interests of everyone’s health and safety, as well as those of science, to make sure any new medicines are rigorously tested.
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