What is it? What are Risks, signs/symptoms? What can I do?
What is lymphedema? Lymphedema is an abnormal localized swelling that occurs by an accumulation of lymph fluid and edema due to a fault in the lymphatic system (Merriam-webster , 2022). Usually, lymphedema is local to one body part, but can be in multiple areas simultaneously. Signs and symptoms related to lymphedema can be dull ache, heaviness or fatigue in the effected area, fluctuations in size with edema usually worse in the evening and better in the morning after sleep, and in later stages brawny skin that is thick and leather like called hyperkeratosis, and sometimes hemosiderin staining (red or purple stains to the skin). There is usually (but not limited to) a family history of swelling, a high risk for infection, and obviously varying stages of swelling.
DO NOT self-diagnose! There is no need to stress yourself out more by what you find on the internet. Your best bet is to see a qualified healthcare professional such as a certified lymphedema therapist, nurse practitioner, or physician for further evaluation.
There is hope. While no cure currently exists for lymphedema there are treatments for lymphedema and chronic swelling. Complete decongestive therapy (CDT) is the gold standard for treatment of lymphedema which includes a combination of skin care, compression therapy, exercise, as well as education. Knowledge is power! The more you can educate yourself the more control you can start to regain over your own life and your body. Attached to this post are multiple handouts for the risk, diagnosis, and treatment of lymphedema from the National Lymphedema Network, a very good resource for those that struggle with chronic swelling or have been diagnosed with lymphedema. It is possible to manage your symptoms that would allow you to get some part of your life back. There is hope!
Where can you go for treatment? The best therapists are certified through an accredited lymphedema program with the suffixes CLT (certified lymphedema therapist) and possibly LANA certified (LANA-CLT). Our staff is well equipped and educated in the screening and treatment for lymphedema, as well as other causes for chronic swelling including congestive heart failure (CHF), venous edema or venous insufficiency, swelling related to morbid obesity, combined insufficiency (venous and lymphatic impairments), or lipedema.
(2022, April 25). Retrieved from Merriam-webster : https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lymphedema
National Lymphedema Network. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://lymphnet.org/