Lymphedema is a type of abnormal swelling that occurs when protein-rich lymph fluid builds up in the body’s soft tissues. Typically, the swelling is in the arms or legs, but it can occur in other parts of the body, including the chest, back or genital area.
In cancer patients, lymphedema can occur when lymph nodes are removed or damaged. You should contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:
- Swelling of an arm or leg (or fingers or toes)
- Decreased flexibility
- Tightness or thickness of the skin in a particular area
- A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
- A feeling of discomfort or tightness when wearing either clothing, shoes or jewelry
- Pain, redness, itching, increased skin temperature in a particular area or a rash, which may be a sign of an infection and warrants immediate medical attention.
- Purple lesions that are flat or raised on the skin. These could be a sign of lymphangiosarcoma, a rare but fast-growing cancer of the lymph vessels.
Damage to the lymph system is not repairable. Early recognition and treatment of lymphedema, however, can minimize discomfort, pain and long-term effects. Good hygiene also can help prevent infection. Once lymphedema is diagnosed, treatment focuses on controlling the swelling and minimizing the build-up of fluid through
- Compression devices
- Pressure garments
- Massage Therapy
- Laser Therapy
- Weight Loss
Lymphedema requires careful evaluation and treatment. Don’t delay in talking with your doctor if you have any of the above symptoms.