Lymphedema is a type of abnormal swelling of the arm, leg or trunk after damage or removal of one or more lymph nodes. The swelling occurs when your lymphatic system prevents the lymph fluid in your arm, leg or trunk from draining adequately. As the fluid accumulates, the swelling continues to worsen over time.
Early signs and symptoms of lymphedema:
- Swelling of part of or all of your extremity (arm or leg; fingers or toes)
- Swelling in part of your trunk (torso or chest)
- A feeling of heaviness or tightness in your arm, leg or trunk
- Restricted range of motion in your arm, leg or trunk
- Aching or discomfort in your arm, leg or trunk
- Rings and jewelry become tight
- Redness, pain, heat, swelling or other signs of infection
Prevention and Treatment
Lymphedema is much easier to prevent than it is to treat. Once you have lymphedema, you will have to manage it the rest of your life. Therefore, it is in every person’s best interest who has had lymph nodes removed to become educated how to prevent it and to be evaluated by a lymphedema specialist to ensure early stages of lymphedema have not begun. That is why Faith Regional was the first in the state to implement “L-Dex”--a test that can detect as little as 2 tablespoons of lymphatic edema. When detected at this early stage, the effects of lymphedema can often be reversed with propertreatment. If you already have noticed swelling in the arm, leg or trunk on the side of your surgery for cancer, getting treatment early is important. Talk to your oncologist or surgeon about a referral to a certified lymphedema therapist.