The Lymphatic System is a network of vessels, like veins, that rid your body of excess fluid. When the amount of fluid is too great or when your lymphatic system is damaged, you get lymphedema.
Lymphedema is a collection of protein-rich fluid that can cause edema (swelling) in your extremities (arms and legs).
Extremity signs and symptoms of Lymphedema can include:
- Swelling (edema)
- Feeling of heaviness
- Hardness under your skin
- Frequent infections
- Difficulty walking (leg swelling only)
What are the risk factors that increase the possibility of developing lymphedema?
- Surgery involving the lymphatic system including your lymph nodes
- Radiation Therapy
- A congenital defect of your lymph system
Guidelines for extremity care to prevent edema formation.
- Do not allow blood pressures or injections in the arm that is on the same side as the lymph node surgery.
- Do not wear jewelry or clothing that is tight on the involved limb.
- Use insect repellent (low DEET) to prevent insect bites.
- Avoid heavy lifting or placing sudden strain on the involved limb.
- Use oven mitts when cooking to avoid burns.
- Use protective gloves while performing yard work.
- Acquire a compression sleeve for your involved limb if you are planning to travel by plane.
The Duke University Hospital Lymphedema Program consists of:
- Manual Lymph Drainage
- Compression Bandaging
- Proper Exercise and Dietary Instruction
- Extensive Education
The result is a thorough yet individualized program designed for you by highly skilled professionals that will allow you greater independence in the management of your lymphedema.