What's Lymphedema?

More than 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with lymphedema annually. The condition requires a medical diagnosis, and while treatment is available, there is no cure for lymphedema. But what's lymphedema, and what causes the condition? Are there natural remedies for Lymphedema that can help with symptoms? Keep reading to find out!

What's Lymphedema?

whats lymphedema causes symptoms natural remedies person getting their arm wrapped at a doctors office close up

Your body's lymphatic system drains fluids from the body, and when this system doesn't function properly, it can lead to the accumulation of fluids that are rich in protein. Lymphedema is the accumulation of this fluid in any area of the body, but the two areas where swelling is most common are:

  • Arms
  • Legs

However, any type of lymphatic blockage can lead to lymphedema. While mild cases may result in only swelling of the limbs, severe cases can pose significant health risks, such as:

  • Infection
  • Skin breakdown
  • Sepsis

Lymphedema Causes

Your body's lymphatic system is comprised of vessels that are responsible for moving the lymph fluid through your body. When you're sick, the system will filter and contain cells to help your body optimally fight off the sickness.

Muscles contract in your body to move these fluids around, and daily movement further helps with this fluid movement.

However, when the lymph vessels no longer transport the lymph fluid properly, it can lead to lymph fluid buildup in the body. Primarily, sufferers will experience a buildup in their arms or legs.  

There are many lymphedema causes for numerous reasons, some of lymphedema's causes include:

  • Cancer, where the cells block off your lymph vessels and cause the flow of lymphatic fluid to be interrupted.
  • Surgery, especially for cancer, may require the removal of lymph nodes, which can lead to lymphedema in some cases.
  • Parasites, often from the tropics, can enter and clog the lymph nodes.

There are also cases where a person will inherit the condition or be born with a defect that causes them to suffer from lymphedema.

Factors that can contribute to your risks of this condition are:

Treating the condition often takes a multi-prong approach, depending on the symptoms you're experiencing. Traditional treatment methods for lymphedema include:

  • Medication
  • Compression
  • Diet changes

If your condition is diagnosed as severe, you may need surgery to help correct the issue. Your doctor will advise you on the best treatment option for you.

Lymphedema Symptoms

Swelling in a single arm or leg is often the first symptom that a person will experience. However, you may also notice the following in the impacted limb(s):

Any sign of swelling in the extremities is a good indication to schedule a visit with your doctor.

Lymphedema Natural Remedies

Managing lymphedema may be possible using natural methods. You can use a combination of the following natural remedies to try and find relief:


Since obesity can lead to increased risks of lymphedema, exercise should be on your to-do list. When you exercise, you're also helping the body naturally move fluids throughout your body and significantly reduce swelling.

Studies recommend that you start exercising slowly and increase the intensity and duration over time.


whats lymphedema causes symptoms natural remedies person getting a foot massage to ease symptoms close up

Circulation is a significant issue for people that sit all day or suffer from lymphedema. Massage therapy has been the focus of studies on circulation, and it has been shown to:

  • Reduce swelling
  • Encourage lymph fluid to move through the body

While it's best to see a certified massage therapist, you can also perform light massage on yourself.

Manage Your Weight

Weight loss is an essential part of treatment if you're overweight. Two main methods to manage and lose weight are exercise and diet. Reducing your caloric intake over time and exercising will help you slowly lose weight and keep it off.

Diets that are high in salt should be adjusted.

Fluid retention and swelling both increases when a person eats large amounts of salts because the salt absorbs the liquid.

Instead, you should focus on a diet that:

If you're struggling to maintain a healthy diet or lose weight, consider working with a dietician that can help you get your weight under control.

Herbs and Oils

Certain herbs and oils are known for helping reduce inflammation and promote circulation. A few of the many herbs and oils that you can add to your diet or daily routine include:

Compression Socks

Using compression socks is common to counteract swelling, and it's a natural remedy that works well in the initial stages of swelling. You'll want to wear compression socks instead of regular socks because the compression will:

  • Promote circulation and the movement of fluid in the extremities
  • Be worn day and night to promote circulation
  • Have no side effects or concerns when wearing them

Compression socks can be purchased at most pharmacies and drug stores, or you'll find a wide selection online that you can choose from.

Many forms of treatment that are "conventional" yet natural also exist. These options include multi-layer compression bandaging, which is most commonly used in more severe cases.

Compression devices, such as a pump, may be connected to the arms, legs, chest, or other areas and then pump fluid through the body.

The pressure from the device can help push fluid through the body and eliminate swelling.

Manual drainage techniques may also be performed, such as the gentle stretching of the skin by a therapist. When manual drainage techniques are used, they can stimulate the lymph vessels and force fluid out of the body.

A therapist can also teach you how to perform these manual drainage techniques.

Final Thoughts

Lymphedema is often treatable, but it's not curable. In the last 5 years, major advancements have been made, including one of the first drugs that may treat the condition. Since a variety of treatment options often provide the best results, you can use many of the natural remedies above, as well as discuss traditional treatment options with your doctor. 

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