The lymphatic system plays a large role in the immune function and circulation. It moves fluid out of the tissues, and collects waste products, bacteria, dead cells and large protein molecules. From there, the waste products are carried to the lymph nodes to be broken down, filtered, and eliminated while the protein rich fluid is transported back to the heart to rejoin circulation.
Its main functions are to: Keep balance of fluid in tissues, Move proteins and digested fats, and Help fight infection by removing viruses and bacteria
When the lymph vessels become compromised they are unable to transport lymph fluid back into circulation, therefore it starts to accumulate and can results in chronic swelling. If it is left untreated it can also result in skin changes, such as hardening of the skin. This accumulation of protein rich lymph fluid is known as lymphedema.
Once this condition occurs, the swelling may increase or become chronic if an effective treatment program is not initiated – Manual Lymphatic Drainage/Combined Decongestive Therapy is most effective; which involves manual techniques applied to the skin with proper bandaging and compression garments.