Know the Signs of Lymphedema

Fern Taylor of Delton wears a compression sleeve and glove on her right arm. Taylor suffers from lymphedema, causing fluid to build up her arm after having lymph nodes removed from her breast. Mark Bugnaski / Kalamazoo Gazette

Mark Bugnaski / Kalamazoo Gazette

Lymphedema is a condition involving the lymph nodes that occurs after surgery. While treating breast cancer lymph nodes may be removed, damaged or disturbed, leading to the potential for lymphedema to occur. Women should be aware of the signs and symptoms of lymphedema as they can manifest several years after surgery. If you notice any of the following, see your doctor right away:

  • Full or heavy feeling in the affected body part.
  • Decreased mobility in the affected body part.
  • Clothing, watches or rings can feel tight
  • Tightness in the skin
  • Abnormal swelling in the affected body part

There is treatment available for lymphedema but it often goes undiagnosed and this may lead to complications such as extreme swelling, infection, pain, discomfort, and cellulitis. It may be difficult to perform daily activities, and travelling on an air plane, lifting heavy objects or a warm climate may exacerbate the problem.

Treatment for lymphedema may include manual lymph drainage therapy, and wearing compression garments. A proper diagnosis must be made by a medical doctor and they will refer you to the appropriate specialist. If you think something isn’t right, then don’t hesitate to see your physician!

For more information please visit The National Lymphedema Network’s page: http://www.lymphnet.org/

Also the Lymphatic Education and Research Network’s homepage: http://lymphaticnetwork.org/

Here is a video in which Academy award winner Kathy Bates talks about her experience with lymphedema on The Doctors: https://youtu.be/6MyvBhK5ylI

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