The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that carry a fluid known as lymph through your body. As well as including vessels that carry lymph fluid, the lymphatic system also contains lymph nodes that distribute the fluid, and the spleen that cleans your blood and fights infection. Lymphatic diseases occur when your lymphatic system stops working properly. When this happens, fluid can build in your tissues, which causes a condition called lymphedema. More serious diseases of the lymphatic system include blockages, lymphatic infections and cancer.
The first step towards treating lymphatic diseases is to get a diagnosis. Usually, the first sign that something is wrong with your lymphatic system is swollen lymph glands. Although this most commonly occurs on either side of the neck, you may also come across swollen lymph glands in your armpits, groin and for women, around your breasts. If you have located your swollen lymph glands, try to notice other symptoms that will be of use when diagnosing what has caused them to swell. Take your temperature, think about whether you are experiencing any pain, and focus on whether they are more swollen at certain times of the day.
Once you have taken note of your symptoms, pay a visit to your family physician. The best way to determine which of the lymphatic diseases you have is to obtain a professional diagnosis. This stage is where your other symptoms will come in. Based on what you tell your physician, he will be able to carry out further tests to see which disease you have. In the vast majority of cases, your lymph nodes will only be swollen as a result of an underlying throat condition, such as pharyngitis or glandular fever. Such diseases occur when your lymphatic system is battling to rid your body of bacteria. Further diagnosis in the form of blood tests or X-rays may be needed.
Once your physician has completed his diagnosis, you can receive treatment. If your lymph nodes have swollen in response to a disease such as glandular fever, you will find that you can treat yourself with the use of antibiotics, rest and throat numbing sprays. However, for some people, more serious diseases such as lymphoma, Castleman's disease, or as a result of a weakened immune system. If this is the case, you will be given a more specific course of treatment. No matter what the cause of your lymphatic disease is, there are treatments that you can carry out at home, as well as treatments that will be carried out by your medical team.
There are modifiable lifestyle factors you can tend to if you have some form of lymphatic disease. Modifiable lifestyle factors are elements of your lifestyle that may be contributing to any lymphatic diseases you have experienced. Whether you have swollen lymph nodes as a result of another condition, or you have a more serious condition, you can change the following things to improve your health:
- Diet: Eat healthy and place particularly strong focus on consuming lots of fruit and vegetables. This will boost your immune system.
- Smoking and drinking: If you smoke or drink, quit or cut down. Both smoking and drinking affect how your body responds to infection.
- Sleeping: In order to help your body battle lymphatic diseases, you should aim to get at least seven hours sleep a night.
- Exercise: Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week.
Once you have focused on your modifiable risk factors, take the following courses of treatment for your lymphatic diseases.
- Treatment for Lymphomas - If you have been diagnosed with a lymphoma, you may undergo surgery to remove the infected lymph node, chemotherapy to eliminate any cancer cells and radiotherapy to kill the cancer cells.
- Castleman's Disease - Much like treatments for lymphoma, Castlemans disease requires surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The combination that you have will depend on how advanced the disease is.
- Weakened Immune System - If you have a weakened immune system as a result of HIV, AIDS or previous bouts of chemotherapy, modify your lifestyle factors as listed above. In addition to this, you should follow all the treatments your doctor prescribes to you.
No matter what steps you take towards treating your lymphatic diseases, do ensure you consult with your family physician every step of the way.
The outcome for your lymphatic disease will depend on how advanced it is, as well as your age and current health status. While the majority of healthy adults who have a lymphatic disease have a good outcome, those who have poor immune systems may not. Your physician will talk you through how well your treatment will work, and how long it will take.
Sources and Citations
Mayo Clinic- Swollen Lymph Nodes
BBC Health: Lymphoma
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