A: Lymphedema is a chronic condition where fluid stays in the tissues just under your skin. This fluid build-up causes swelling (or edema), most often in your arms or legs. Lymphedema can be caused by a variety of things including surgeries where lymph nodes are affected, cancer treatments including surgery or radiation, or any significant injury to an extremity causing trauma with swelling that does not resolve after three months. Treatment for various types of cancer including breast, prostate, bladder, testicular, uterine, vulvar, cervical, lymphoma, and melanoma may increase the likelihood of lymphedema. Lymphedema is seen more often in the arms or legs but can occur in any part of the body.
Some signs of lymphedema include prolonged swelling, part of your body (like your arm, leg, belly, or genitals) feeling full or heavy, changes in skin texture (feels tight or hard), and less movement or flexibility in nearby joints. You may also notice trouble fitting into clothes in one area, such as a jacket sleeve, pant leg, or one shoe being tight. Collars, rings, watches, and/or bracelets may feel tight even though you haven’t gained weight.
Treatment for lymphedema commonly includes referral to a certified lymphedema therapist for complete decongestive therapy. The therapist will work with each patient on an individualized program including five parts: skin care, manual lymphatic drainage, exercise, compression bandaging, and a self-management program.
Information from www.cancer.org provided by Clint Luterman, 21st Century Rehab, Dallas County Hospital, 610 10th St., Perry, 465-7672.