(Primary Lymphedema; Secondary Lymphedema)
|Damaged Lymph Nodes|
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- Milroy’s disease
- Meige disease
|Planned Lymph Removal for Cancer Treatment|
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- Swelling in arms, legs, fingers, or toes
- Clothes, shoes, or jewelry may begin to feel tight even though there is no weight change
- Heaviness in limb
- Changes in skin such as a feeling of tightness, hardening, or reddening of the skin
- Loss in range of motion and flexibility in nearby joints
- Aching, pain, discomfort, or tingling in the limb
Reduction of Swelling
- Exercise—light gradual strength training can help decrease swelling. The doctor or a physical therapist can suggest a program that won't make swelling worse.
- Compression—special stockings, sleeves, or elastic bandages can help provide constant gentle pressure over the affected area. Some devices will adjust as the swelling goes down. The doctor or therapist will discuss different options to help find one that is best for each situation.
- Manual therapy—a certain type of massage may help move fluids. A therapist can teach the proper technique to avoid adding more fluid to the affected area. The therapy may not be appropriate for all conditions, especially those with cancer present.
- Pneumatic compression—a device creates pressure at regular intervals using a sleeve over the affected arm or leg.
- Reaching or maintaining a healthy weight—obesity can increase the risk of lymphedema and impair fluid flow.
- Healthy nutrition guidelines—certain foods can increase fluid retention in the body. Good nutrition choices will also affect overall health and weight.
- Maintaining good skin health to reduce risk of more swelling and complications. Basic steps may include:
- Keeping affected arm or leg clean.
- Keeping hands and feet protected by wearing gloves and shoes.
- Using an electric razor to shave to decrease cuts to skin.
- Using sunscreen when outdoors to prevent burns.
- Avoidance of actions or activities that may further impair lymph fluid flow in the area.
- Avoiding blood draws or blood pressure measurements on affected arm or leg.
- Avoiding positions that impair flow of fluid like crossing legs or carrying items on shoulder if either area is at risk.
- Avoiding ice or heat treatments to the affected areas.
- A medical bracelet can let medical professionals know about risk for lymphedema. This may keep them from performing tasks that may make swelling worse.
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov
National Lymphedema Network http://www.lymphnet.org
Canadian Cancer Society http://www.cancer.ca
Lymphedema Association of Quebec http://www.infolympho.ca
Lymphedema. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated November 10, 2014. Accessed February 18, 2015.
Lymphedema. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/lymphedema.aspx. Updated December 2011. Accessed February 17, 2015.
Poage E, et al. Demystifying Lymphedema: Development of the Lymphedema Putting Evidence into Practice. Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing. 2008, 12(6), 951-964. Available at: https://cjon.ons.org/cjon/12/6/demystifying-lymphedema-development-lymphedema-putting-evidence-practice%c2%ae-card.
Trayes KP, Studdiford JS, Pickle S, Tully AS. Edema: Diagnosis and Management. Am Fam Physician. 2013 Jul 15;88(2):102-10. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2013/0715/p102.html.
1/22/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Torres Lacomba M, Yuste Sánchez MJ, Zapico Goñi A, et al. Effectiveness of early physiotherapy to prevent lymphoedema after surgery for breast cancer: randomised, single blinded, clinical trial. BMJ. 2010;340:b5396.
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 02/2015 -
- Update Date: 02/20/2015 -
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
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