The governing body for practicing vein doctors has voted to change our specialty’s name. We are currently certified under the American Board of Phlebology. This name is officially changing to the American Board of Venous and Lymphatic Medicine (ABVLM). I personally believe this is a great step toward branding our field and explaining what we really do. For the longest time the word “phlebology” has evoked confusion in the lay community and the medical field at large. This name change creates a more ‘instant recognition’ of what we do. This will help us better communicate with patients, physicians, communities, and health insurance plans.
Venous and lymphatic medicine goes hand in hand. We get a lot of new patients that present with the complaint of leg swelling. While venous insufficiency is a major cause of leg swelling, it is not the only one, and the list of causes for swelling is large. It is our job to work with the patient’s primary care provider and narrow this list down.
Lymphedema is one of those other causes for leg swelling. Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in your lymphatic system, an important part of your immune and circulatory systems. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and as the fluid builds up, the swelling continues. The most common form of lymphedema the public recognizes is caused by the removal of lymph nodes after a cancer surgery. This causes swelling of the affected limb. Lymphedema also has a list of other causes including infection, blockages from surgeries, general lymphatic blockage, genetics, radiation treatments, and injuries.
Patients with the complaints of leg swelling should undergo a thorough evaluation. If Lymphedema is suspected, treatment is available. Treatment for lymphedema is usually multi-factorial and multi-disciplinary. This starts with proper compression and supportive therapy. We also work closely with specialized lymphedema clinics that can provide technical expertise in manual lymphatic drainage and custom supportive garments.
So, if you have leg swelling and are unsure of the cause, start with your primary care provider. He can then direct you, if needed, to a clinic that has certified venous and lymphatic specialists. Together, we can find solutions for your problem and improve your life.