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Lymphedema Treatment

Your lymphatic system plays a key role in keeping your body healthy by removing toxins and other waste. When your lymph nodes get blocked, they can’t function properly, and the area around your lymph nodes becomes swollen — edema means inflammation. Lymph node blockages can even cause pain. That’s when you need the services of a cosmetic doctor like those at Rowe Plastic Surgery in the New York City Metropolitan area. A plastic surgeon is well suited to treat lymphedema because the methodologies overlap cosmetic techniques. So if you’re suffering from lymphedema, call Rowe Plastic Surgery in New York City or New Jersey for comprehensive, compassionate treatment.

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Page Updated on Jul 13, 2022 by Dr. Norman Rowe (Plastic Surgeon) of Rowe Plastic Surgery

What Is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a debilitating condition affecting your lymphatic system. It’s characterized by a persistent swelling because of a problem with lymphatic drainage, usually in your arms or legs, but can occur in other areas like your breasts. The build-up of lymph fluid usually happens because of a blockage or damage to your lymphatic system.

You have three types of blood vessels in your body: arteries, veins and lymphatics. Arteries direct blood into an area, while veins direct it back to your heart. The lymphatic system comprises vessels, tissues and organs. The lymphatic vessels drain the excess fluid, toxins and waste not carried away by your veins. These vessels also aid your immune system by transporting white blood cells.

What Causes Lymphedema?

There are two basic types of lymphedemas: primary and secondary. The cause of primary lymphedema is unknown. Primary lymphedema may start at birth, during childhood, or at any point in your adult life. Secondary lymphedema occurs due to another condition. The most common causes of secondary lymphedema include:

  • Blockage by a cancerous tumor in your lymph system
  • Complications in your cancer treatment or surgery that damage your lymph nodes or blood vessels, leading to a fluid build-up
  • Damage to your lymph vessels by radiation treatments destroys cancerous tissues, which also leads to a build-up of lymph fluid in the tissues
  • The removal of lymph nodes to halt the spread of cancer, which impacts the lymphatic system enough to cause lymphedema
  • Infections, such as a severe cellulitis infection, which damages or scars the lymph nodes or vessels
  • Inflammatory conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and eczema, which leads to swelling or permanent damage to your lymphatic system
  • Cardiovascular diseases that lead to medical conditions include varicose veins, deep vein thrombosis, and venous leg ulcers, which all increase the risk of lymphedema
  • Excessive scarring caused by injury and trauma, including severe skin burns, that affect the lymphatic system, causing lymphedema
  • Gene changes or mutations that involve your lymph system

What Are the Consequences of Lymphedema?

If you’ve got swollen arms or legs, the problem requires immediate diagnosis. This condition not only affects your appearance but also your ability to do normal daily activities. What’s worse, the build-up of lymph fluid increases the risk of infection and other health complications because the lymphocytes can’t reach some parts of your body.

In New York City or New Jersey, lymphatic specialists and cosmetic surgeons treat lymphedema at Rowe Plastic Surgery. Their expertise in surgery and liposuction makes them qualified to treat lymphedema, but these board-certified doctors also offer plastic surgery treatments, including breast reconstruction.

What Are the Symptoms of Lymphedema?

The main symptoms of lymphedema include:

  • Swelling in your arms or legs
  • A reduced range of motion in your extremities
  • Recurring infections
  • Thickening of the skin in your legs and arms, a condition called fibrosis
  • Problems wearing body accessories, clothes or shoes
  • Head or neck swelling
  • Discomfort or pain in your swollen limbs
  • A tingling sensation in a swollen limb
  • Unsightly growths on your skin
  • Severe fatigue

If you’ve noticed some swelling in your arms or legs, accompanied by any other symptoms, it’s time to consult a lymphatic specialist. Visit one of the state-of-the-art facilities of Rowe Plastic Surgery in Manhattan, Long Island, New Jersey and the Hamptons. Your doctor carries out extensive tests to identify the underlying cause of your lymphatic condition. The results steer the doctor to create the most effective treatment plan.

Who Is at Risk of Lymphedema?

While theoretically everyone is at risk of lymphedema, some people are more vulnerable. The factors that increase your risk of lymphedema include:

  • Advancing age
  • A cancer diagnosis
  • Undergoing radiation therapy for cancer
  • Medical conditions, such as rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis
  • Living in a tropical area infested with parasites that can block lymph nodes
  • Being overweight or obese

If you think you have a case of lymphedema, talk to your doctor immediately. With the right diagnostic tests, Dr. Rowe identifies the condition and recommends the most effective treatment. He has a team of pathologists and other specialists on board to help with testing and diagnosis. This helps the team deliver the best lymphedema treatment.

What Are the Conservative Treatments for Lymphedema?

After diagnosing your condition, your lymphatic specialist may recommend multiple conservative treatments to reduce swelling and other symptoms caused by the lymphedema. The non-surgical options to treat the lymphatic disorder include:

  • Decongestive lymphatic therapy (DLT), involves the use of compression bandages, skincare, exercises, and a specialized massage technique called manual lymphatic drainage
  • Dieting and other weight loss techniques
  • Keeping the swollen arm or leg raised whenever possible
  • The use of medication to prevent infections

Your doctor endorses the most appropriate lymphedema treatment, based on your diagnosis, cancer treatment, and other medical conditions. With a tailored treatment plan, you can manage the debilitating symptoms of lymphedema and improve the quality of your life.

What Are the Surgical Lymphedema Treatments?

If the conservative lymphedema treatment techniques fail, your lymphedema specialist may recommend surgery. The goal of surgery is to improve the flow of lymph fluid to prevent swelling and other complications. The surgical procedures to treat lymphedema include:

  • Lymphedema liposuction. Your doctor performs circumferential liposuction as an outpatient procedure on either your arm or leg. You must wear compression both before and after this surgery.
  • Lymphedema mass excision. If you’ve recently lost a significant amount of weight, you may have a mass of tissue hanging inside your thighs. This ball of tissue makes it hard to move or even walk. In lymphedema mass excision, a top surgeon removes that tissue. While a short stay in the hospital may be required, this procedure means the difference between being wheelchair-bound and being able to walk unassisted.
  • Lymph node transfer. This procedure involves transplanting lymph nodes from another part of your body, usually from your lower abdomen, to the area where they’ve been damaged or removed. The blood vessels from the collection of lymph nodes are connected to new blood vessels. The new lymph nodes stimulate the growth more, and the transfer of healthy tissue allows you a greater range of motion.
  • Lymphatic bypass procedure. In this surgery, your surgeon connects the healthy lymphatic vessels to a similarly sized vein using super microsurgery under a microscope. This procedure allows your body to bypass the damaged lymph nodes.

Many of these procedures can be combined into one procedure when it’s advantageous. For example, you can undergo simultaneous breast reconstruction with a lymph node transfer. At Rowe Plastic Surgery in New York City and New Jersey, the goal is to get you back to your normal life.

Lymphedema Treatment FAQS

  • What do lymphedema procedures involve? Surgical lymphedema treatment procedures are minimally invasive. They’re short outpatient surgeries, but you have to be under general anesthesia. Non-surgical treatments are often tried first.
  • What’s the recovery like from the surgery? For lymphedema surgical treatment, recovery time is fast and you can resume normal activities within a few days.
  • Why should I go to a cosmetic surgeon for lymphedema treatment? Cosmetic surgeons have expertise in skin grafting, so they are well suited to graft lymph nodes from one part of your body to another. They also know how to reduce swelling. Finally, they have treatment centers to perform the needed outpatient surgeries.
  • Do I need to stay at a hospital for lymphedema treatment? After your surgical lymphedema treatment, you can usually continue your recovery at home.

If you have any symptoms of lymphedema, contact Rowe Plastic Surgery in Manhattan, Plainview, or Water Mill, NY, or in Montclair or Red Bank, NJ. Your doctor is dedicated to improving your life by treating your lymphedema.

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I had an amazing experience

I had an amazing experience with Rowe Plastic Surgery. Dr. Pierce, Lisa, and his staff were PHENOMENAL. I am thrilled with the results! Lisa helped tremendously with billing as well. My recovery was also great. I highly recommend Rowe's Plastic Surgery to anyone looking for a transformation that will change their life 🙂

fiona kelly

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Dr Rowe and his staff are so professional and friendly and helpful!I just had a breast reduction yesterday and I feel great considering I just had surgery. In a little pain but not much.
I was worried about getting the surgery covered under insurance but Dr. Rowe’s staff took care of everything and insurance approved surgery within a few days. I was shocked!The office is beautiful and in a great location.Dr. Rowe’s staff is always available whenever I have any questions and I’m so happy!

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