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1. What are signs and symptoms of lymphedema?

  • Swelling in the breast, chest, shoulder, arm, or hand.
  • The affected area feels full or heavy.
  • Skin changes texture, feels tight or hard, or looks red.
  • New aching, tingling, or other discomfort in the area.
  • Less movement or flexibility in nearby joints, such as your shoulder, hand, or wrist.
  • Trouble fitting your arm into jacket or shirt sleeves.
  • Your bra doesn’t fit the same.
  • Your ring, watch, and/or bracelet feels tight, but you haven’t gained weight.

2. Where are the networks of lymphatic systems located in my body?

Please click here to be directed to our education resources section for additional information on the lymphatic system.

3. What causes lymphedema?

  • Surgery – when the surgeon removes lymph nodes and they do not get enough fluid in your body they will begin to swell.
  • Radiation- it can affect the flow of lymph fluid into the nodes and vessels.
  • Cancer- A tumor can block part of the lymph system.
  • Infection – Can reduce or stop the movement of the fluid getting to the nodes and vessels.

4. If I am at high risk for lymphedema, what can I do to lower my risk?

  • Get regular check –ups.
  • Report changes to your doctor.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Use compression garments to reduce swelling and help the fluid have better movement.
  • Avoid any burns, infections, or other injuries.
  • Beware of cellulitis, which is an infection in your tissue under your skin.
  • Try to avoid pressure or constriction to any extremities.

5. If I am diagnosed with lymphedema, what should I be aware of?

  • Avoid heavy lifting.
  • Avoid vigorous and repetitive movements against resistance with the affected arm or leg.
  • Elevate the affected arm or leg whenever possible.
  • Avoid extreme temperature changes.
  • Consult your doctor about your physical activity limitations.
  • Maintain good hygiene and skin care.
  • Do not wear tight clothes or jewelry.

6. How is lymphedema treated?

Initially you will be referred to a physical therapist to be evaluated for the condition. Your therapists will develop a plan especially for you, which may include massage, exercise, manual pumping and wraps. Lymphedema is normally maintained by the usage of compression garments to help reduce swelling, and stretching exercises to help gain back mobility of the limb.

7. How can the Image Recovery Centers® help with my lymphedema?

Your physical therapist will refer you to be fitted for your compression garment and a certified staff member at the Image Recovery Centers® will measure you. Well-fitted compression garments can help with the discomfort and swelling caused by lymphedema. You will receive your garment and be followed at intervals of 3 to 6 months for replacement garments.

8. How long does lymphedema last?

Lymphedema (lim-fa-dee-ma) is a lifelong condition caused by a buildup of lymph fluid in the tissues, leading to swelling (edema), pain, discomfort and the risk of infection.  There is no cure for lymphedema at this time, but when diagnosed and treated early, it can be managed and you can prevent more serious problems.