What is lymphedema?

Lymphedema refers to swelling in a part of the body that is caused by an abnormal build up of fluid.  Generally lymphedema is often found in an arm or leg.  Lymphedema can be reduced, controlled, or even eliminated with certain treatment techniques and lifestyle changes.

What causes lymphedema?

Primary lymphedema is caused by the malformation of lymphatic vessels.  It can appear at any time and progress slowly.  Secondary lymphedema is caused by some form of damage to the lymphatic system generally from radiation therapy, tumor, trauma, or surgery.

What are treatments for lymphedema?

Manual lymphatic drainage is a hands-on technique that gently stretches the skin to increase the flow of fluid to healthy parts of the body.  Compression wrapping is a technique used with short stretch compression bandages on the affected arm or leg to minimize fluid build up and prevent the limb from re-filling.  Exercise can improve the flow of excess fluid as well as improving overall strength and endurance for functional activities.

How do I recognize lymphedema?

There are several signs that you may be suffering from lymphedema.  These include swelling in the body, heaviness or achy feeling, limitations in movement, clothes feeling tight, skin that becomes hardened or has indentations, cuts that heal slowly, or pain, numbness and tingling in the swollen area.