Who Gets Lymphedema?
It can affect men, women and children. Primary Lymphedema affects those born with a tendency to develop it. Secondary Lymphedema is caused by damage to the lymph system such as surgery, especially cancer surgeries where lymph nodes are removed. It can also be caused by radiation, infection, injury, burns and other trauma. People who live or travel to tropical climates can get it from parasites.
What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Lymphedema?
Signs or symptoms of lymphedema to watch out for include: a full sensation in the limb(s), skin feeling tight, decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle, difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area, or ring, wrist watch, or bracelet tightness. If you notice persistent swelling, it’s very important that you seek immediate medical advice (and get at least one second opinion) as early diagnosis and treatment improves both the prognosis and the condition.
What Can At Risk People Do To Avoid It?
There is nothing you can do to prevent primary lymphedema. For secondary lymphedema, protect your at risk body parts from sunburn, cuts, scrapes and insect bites. Gradually build up exercise tolerance. Don’t allow vaccinations, blood draws or blood pressure to be taken on your at risk limb. Avoid taking diuretics and anti-inflammatory drugs. Wear special compression garments for air travel. If your at risk body part swells, feels tight, or painful, seek medical attention. Many doctors are uninformed about lymphedema and its treatment, sometimes confusing it with obesity, so get a second or third opinion if necessary.
Can It Be Cured?
No. Once you have lymphedema, you have it for life. If it is caught early, with proper therapy the huge disfiguring limbs can be avoided. Once the enormous limbs have developed, they can be improved, but the treatment is time consuming, very expensive and not available in many areas of Canada.
How Is Lymphedema Treated?
The best treatment is Combined Decongestive Therapy. CDT includes compression bandaging, skin care, exercises, and a special massage called Manual Lymph Drainage (MLD). Once the limb has been reduced in size, costly (and uncomfortable) compression garments must be worn during waking hours. Very often, compression bandaging or an expensive compression device must be worn at night to keep the limb(s) reduced in size.
Successful management of lymphedema requires the cooperation of lymphedema educated physicians, therapists, compression garment suppliers, as well as patients and family members.
What Is LAS?
The Lymphedema Association of Saskatchewan Inc. is an advocacy group comprised of lymphedema patients, therapists and interested individuals. We are trying to raise awareness about the condition, particularly among doctors, therapists and health agencies. We encourage therapists to seek specialized training and provide information and support to those afflicted with the condition.