Questions and Answers About Lymphedema Symptoms and Treatment

What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is the presence of fluid that causes the skin to swell — a problem known as edema. Most often, the swelling develops in a leg or arm that has no regular lymph drainage.

What are the causes of lymphedema?

One thing that may cause lymphedema is surgery performed on lymph nodes to remove them. This usually occurs during the treatment of cancer. Usually, the lymph nodes’ function is to filter any fluid that passes through it. It removes harmful bacteria, foreign substances, and viruses. Once these are filtered, they are then destroyed by a specific white blood cell called a lymphocyte.

What is the difference between Primary and Secondary Lymphedema?

Primary lymphedema can develop as early as birth. It can also develop in adulthood or puberty. What causes primary lymphedema is unknown.

Secondary lymphedema is often a symptom of another health problem. Medicines like tamoxifen (Nolvadex), lymph node injuries, and radiation therapy can cause lymphedema, as well.

What are the symptoms of lymphedema?

Lymphedema symptoms include  a feeling that your arms or legs are full, which can cause a decreased ability to move your wrists, ankles, and hands. The swelling can also cause a tight feeling when wearing rings, watches, bracelets or other clothing.

What is the treatment for lymphedema?

Treatment for lymphedema can include the following, depending on the cause of it. The treatment can be anything from dieting properly, draining fluids, wearing compressing apparel like sleeves or stockings.

Elevating the leg or arm that has swelled may aid in draining the lymph fluid from the limb that is affected. When ever you can, take the affected limb and put it on a soft surface, making sure it is elevated above the heart.

Exercise with a bandage on can improve circulation of the lymph fluid. Be sure to consult your doctor about this first, as sometimes the exercise may increase fluid buildup.

If you suspect that you have lymphedema symptoms, consult your doctor immediately. This is a serious condition and requires immediate treatment by your physician.

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