Lymphedema is a progressive disease wherein the lymph fluids of the body accumulated in one area (typically the limbs), causes intense inflammation. Its different stages are identified based on the level or depth of affectation. The stages of lymphedema in the legs, arms, and other parts of the body are discussed below. Read on to find out more.
4 Stages of Lymphedema
In this Article:
- Stage 0 (Latent Stage)
- Stage 1 (Mild Stage)
- Stage 2 (Moderate Stage or Irreversible Stage)
- Stage 3 (Severe Stage or Lymphostatic Elephantiasis Stage)
Stage 0 (Latent Stage)
The latent or subclinical stage is where the earliest symptoms start to form. The usually reported symptoms are tingling sensation, feeling of heaviness, and tightness of the skin on the affected area or limb. A medical assessment must be sought at this stage to prevent the swelling from worsening.
Stage 1 (Mild Stage)
The mild stage is when the symptoms of lymphedema start to become visible. This stage is characterized by mild swelling of the affected area which is usually resolved by mere limb elevation. The fluid, which is high in protein accumulates in one area of the body, typically at the furthest end of a limb often causes pitting or a small dent on the affected area called "pitting edema."
Among all the lymphedema stages, Stage 1 is the earliest to detect and the easiest to relieve. In this lymphedema stage, proper management reduces the swelling and prevents the fluid from re-accumulating, which will help prevent the disease from progressing in severity. You can try homeopathic medicine and targeted proteolytic enzymes like Detox Lymph and Enzyme Defense which have both been formulated to break down protein complexes and lessen the viscosity of the stuck fluid, making drainage treatment easier.
Stage 2 (Moderate Stage or Irreversible Stage)
Tissue fibrosis starts to develop under the skin during this stage. This lymphedema stage produces more swelling and less pitting because the tissues below the skin start to harden and thicken. The accumulating fluid becomes inflamed and stores up fatty tissues that increase the inflammation.
Stage 2 lymphedema treatment focuses on the reduction of swelling, for at this point, it is already irreversible. Limb elevation will not be enough, thus, daily and nightly compression is needed to improve the edema.
Stage 3 (Severe Stage or Lymphostatic Elephantiasis Stage)
During stage 3 of lymphedema, the affected area becomes increasingly large and swollen. Pitting is absent and the tissues are very thick and inflamed where the skin appears to be misshapen and scaly. Symptoms such as skin discoloration, warts, increased skin folds, lymphorrhea (or fluid leak), and skin hardening characterize this stage, which is also known as "lymphostatic elephantiasis."
The severe lymphedema stage has the highest potential to develop complications and negatively affect the performance of daily activities. Untreated swelling and lymph fluid leaks may accumulate bacteria and cause systemic infection where strict compliance with the prescribed treatment plan is advised.
To know more about lymphedema, check out this video from Osmosis discussing its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment:
Early diagnosis and treatment are of utmost importance when it comes to progressive conditions like lymphedema. The early onset of proper management will prevent life-threatening complications and disruption of daily basic functions. If symptoms start to show, it is best to consult a health professional immediately.
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