What is lymphedema?
Your lymphatic system is made up of your lymph nodes and vessels that carry lymph fluid throughout your body. This fluid helps remove waste and toxins, and helps you fight infection. Lymphedema occurs when your lymphatic system is unable to drain the fluid the way it should. If you have lymphedema, you will experience swelling and discomfort.
Sometimes, lymphedema happens because the lymph nodes were removed or damaged during cancer treatment. Other times, lymphedema is caused by an infection.
At Main Line Health locations in the western suburbs of Philadelphia we offer lymphedema management to help reduce swelling and other symptoms caused by lymphedema so you can improve your health and feel more comfortable.
Lymphedema usually affects your arms, legs, abdomen or more than one area at once. Lymphedema can be short-lived, occurring due to surgery, or it can be chronic, developing slowly and lasting for years or even a lifetime.
The most common symptom of lymphedema is swelling. Other common symptoms include:
- Aching or pain in arm, leg or abdomen
- Changes in the skin, such as thickening
- Feeling of fullness, heaviness or tightness in the area
- Problems bending or moving a joint, such as the fingers, wrist, elbow or shoulder
- Weakness in the affected arm or leg
There is no specific screening or test that can help diagnose lymphedema. However, your doctor can determine if you have lymphedema by taking into consideration your health history, including any surgeries, along with examining you to look for swelling and other symptoms.
Prevention and treatment for lymphedema
If you have lymphedema, you will want to seek treatment to reduce your symptoms. If lymphedema is left untreated, it can become worse and cause infection or complications.
Main Line Health offers lymphedema management, including prevention and treatment strategies, including:
- Compression garments
- Elevation of affected area
- Infection prevention
- Massage therapy
- Weight management