I am a 2l-year-old woman and have recently diagnosed with lymphoedema of the lower right leg. The cause of this is unknown as yet. Please could you give me some advice as to what I could do to relieve the swelling and help me live life as normally as possible?
Lymphoedema refers to the painless swelling of a limb, caused by fluid that accumulates due to an obstruction in the lymph vessels draining the site. Let me explain in more detail. The body has two interconnected circulation systems, the cardiovascular and the lymphatic, which form a complex network from head to toe. The cardiovascular system circulates blood through the heart arteries, veins and capillaries. Waste from your body is disposed of by the lymphatic system, working in tandem with the veins of the venous system. The latter also acts on its own to cope with carbon dioxide gas waste from the cells.
Meanwhile, the lymphatic system drains other waste, consisting of the chemical by-products of cell metabolism, which end up in the spaces between cells, and any foreign bodies such as bacteria, viruses, fungal spores and rogue chemicals that have entered the body via the skin. This waste takes the form of fluid (medically called ‘interstitial’ or ‘extracellular’ fluid and some solids. These are collected in small blood vessels, which then empty the waste products into the large veins leading into the right chambers of the heart. From there, they travel to the lungs to become purified and/or oxygenated before returning to the heart.
So basically the lymphatic system is like the drainage systems that collect waste from kitchens, bathrooms and so on. However because the walls of the lymph vessels are thin, and bacteria from any skin cut or abrasion can easily enter, nature has provided lymph nodes or glands at various points on the network. These act as checkpoints, identifying foreign bodies such as bacteria, cancer cells, chemicals and pus particles. lf they come into contact with these enemies, the nodes swell with a fluid that contains fighting cells called lymphocytes, designed to destroy foreign bodies. The same thing happens when you have an infection: the lymph glands swell in, for example, your tonsils, throat, neck, underarms or groin.
lf anything blocks the ‘drains’ of the lymph system, the fluids accumulate and the result is oedema – as in your leg. If some lymph glands and vessels are removed surgically, as they are quite frequently in breast cancer patients, it causes oedema in the arm. Sometimes parasites block the lymphatic system in the groin area, causing huge swelling in the legs, called elephantiasis because the foot becomes elephant-like.
In my experience, lower-leg swelling is commonly caused by a partial blockage in the superficial veins, due to small clots (rather than big clots such as those involved in deep vein thrombosis). Any mechanical pressure on the leg, such as wearing socks with a tightly elasticated rib at the top, is enough to cause swelling.
These are my suggestions:
* It is essential that you help your liver – the main controller of the clotting system -to function properly.
* Avoid the contraceptive pill, long-term antibiotics for acne or other conditions, excess alcohol, deep-fried, rich or oily foods, and cream, butter and cheese.
* Don’t smoke.
* Drink one glass daily of freshly juiced carrot, celery and cucumber, and three cups daily of gokhru tea to reduce general water retention – take both for two months.
* Massage your legs daily, downwards from the knees through the calves to the ankles (to guard against any upward movement of clots) with a mixture of three parts organic sesame oil (from good supermarkets), two parts pure mustard oil, and one part kalonji (black cumin seed) oil. Do this for ten minutes at bedtime for a month. Also, in the mornings, massage the inner surface of the legs down the bone shafts to the ankles with Amrutanjan Balm. You may find numerous small nodules along the way, which are small clots in the superficial veins sticking to the valves. Work gently, as these nodules are often, tender. This will bring about an instant reduction of swelling, though it may return later. However subsequent treatments should resolve the problem within a month.
* I also recommend manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage by a qualified therapist.