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What is lympedema, and what can be done to help it?

By August 7, 2010 - 1:21pm
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Swelling of both arm, past history of cancer. Cancer free 2 years now.

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HERWriter Guide

Hi 1cuponatime

Thanks for your question and congratulations on being cancer free!

Lymphedema is something that can occur with people who don't have lymph nodes or who have damaged lymph nodes. Their arms or legs well due to fluid build up. Did you have nodes removed due to your surgery?

From our Encyclopedia:

Risk Factors
These factors increase your chance of developing lymphedema. Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors:

■Surgery that removed lymph nodes
◦Breast cancer surgery (eg, lumpectomy , mastectomy )
■Radiation treatment
■Parasites—tropical/subtropical regions
■Poor diet
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to lymphedema. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Tell your doctor if you have any of these:

■Swelling in arms, legs, fingers, or toes
■Loss in range of motion
■Aching, pain, or discomfort
■Heaviness or tightness of skin
■Your clothes, shoes, or jewelry feel tight
■Hardening of the skin
■Redness of skin
Cases of lymphedema can vary from mild to severe. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

■Measurement of your arms and/or legs—to assess the severity of fluid build-up
■Lymphoscintigraphy—test that uses dye to trace its travel through your lymph system
■MRI scan —magnetic waves are used to make pictures of body structures; used to look at tissue affected by lymphedema
■CT scan —type of x-ray that uses a computer to make images; used to look at tissues affected by lymphedema
■Duplex ultrasound or Doppler ultrasound —test that uses sound waves to make images; used to look at blood flow and rule out blood clot
Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:

Your doctor or physical therapist may show you exercises to drain fluid out of your arm or leg. Massage may also be used to help fluid draining. Sometimes external pumps are used to help drain the fluid build-up.

Compression stockings, sleeves, or bandages are often used to direct fluid away from your affected arm or leg. You may be shown how to apply a compression device.

Areas of lymphedema are at risk for infection. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent or treat infection. If the condition is painful your doctor may suggest or prescribe a pain reliever.

Surgery to remove extra tissue from your arm or leg may be considered in severe cases.

If you are at risk for developing lymphedema, there are measures you can take to help reduce your chance of getting the condition:

■Don’t allow anyone to take blood or your blood pressure on your affected arm or leg.
■Wear a medical bracelet warning of your risk for developing lymphedema.
■Keep your affected arm or leg clean.
■Avoid crossing your legs or carrying items on your shoulder if either area is at risk.
■Keep hands and feet protected by wearing gloves and shoes.
■Maintain a healthy weight and eat properly.
■Use an electric razor to shave.
■Use sunscreen when outdoors.
■Avoid icepacks or heating pads to the affected area.

1cuponatime, you can read more on our Lymphedema page here, as well as other online resources , personal stories from other women and advice from our specialists.

1cuponatime, have you been diagnose with this condition or suspect you may have it?


August 7, 2010 - 4:31pm
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