What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition characterized by localized swelling resulting from the accumulation of protein rich interstitial fluid, it happens when the lymphatic system has been impaired in some way. Lymphedema can be a hereditary condition, known as primary lymphedema; or it can also be as the result of some sort of trauma like an accident, a burn, or a surgery involving lymph nodes. You may be at risk of lymphedema following a mastectomy or hysterectomy involving lymphnodes. This is known as secondary lymphedema. The treatment of lymphedema involves four components:

• Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage
• Compression Therapy (garments and bandaging)
• Excercise
• Skin Care

An intensive phase of treatment, called Combined Decongestive Therapy, uses all four components in the management of lymphedema. If you are concerned that you may be at risk or you have lymphedema, please consult your doctor.

Here are some tips for preventing the onset of lymphedema, or managing you lymphedema:

• Keep the limb clean and moisturized
• Avoid Cuts and Burns, if you do break the skin, clean the cut and use an antibacterial cream.
• It is very important to avoid infection
• Watch for signs of infection and call your doctor if you notice redness or increased warmth, especially if accompanied by a fever.
• Avoid sunburn- avoid direct sunlight and wear sunscreen on your arm and chest
• Wear insect repellent to avoid bug bitesDon’t cut cuticles or allow them to be cut when having a manicure
• Don’t allow blood samples or injections on the affected arm
• Wear gardening gloves and Dish gloves to avoid injury
• Avoid heavy repetitive lifting on the affected side
• Avoid narrow bra straps or tight fitting bras
• Avoid Saunas and Hot tubs
• Exercise regularly but break in slowly and increase gradually. Exercise is very important in assisting the lymphatic system
• Maintain a healthy body weight, being overweight increases your chance of developing lymphedema
• Wear a compression sleeve when taking long flights

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