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Warning Signs of Lymphedema

If you are a person who is at risk for lymphedema, you will want to learn the early warning signs. The earlier lymphemdea is diagnosed and the sooner you seek treatment, the more likely you are to avoid the potentially serious complications.

If you are a person who is at risk, you will also want to know tips on how to prevent lymphedema.

Risk Factors for Lymphedema

Who is at risk for lymphedema? Is there an answer to how to prevent lymphedema? Anyone who has one or more of the following factors can acquire lymphedema.

  • Deep invasive wounds that might tear, cut or damage the lymphatics
  • Radiation treatments, especially ones that are focused in areas that might contain “clusters” of lymph nodes
  • Serious burns, even intense sunburn
  • Infection of the microscopic parasite filarial larvae, though this is more common in tropical countries

For primary lymphedema any person who has a family history of unknown swelling of a limb

Warning Signs of Lymphedema

A heavy or achy feeling in an arm or a leg. This includes unexplained pain, throbbing or aching especially in the “at risk” limb.

Tingling or “needles and pins” sensation in the at risk limb.This can also include unexplained shooting pains through the limb.

A tight sensation in a hand or foot.

Noticeable swelling in an arm, leg, hand, or foot. Swelling in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, chest or legs. The swelling may occur for the first time after a traumatic event (such as bruises, cuts, sunburn, and sports injuries), after an infection in the part of the body that was treated for cancer, or after an extended (more than three hours) airplane trip (due to the sudden change in cabin pressure).

Transient swelling. For example does the at risk limb suddenly swell for a short period of time and then go back to normal? This might well be a warning sign the lymphatic system has been compromised. This type of swelling might be unexplainable, it just “happens.” without apparent cause. This swelling can be very gradual or can happen suddenly.

Decreased flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle. This can include unexplained stiffness in a joint.

Shirt sleeves or pant legs that feel tight, any difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area.

Such changes as a ring or bracelet that are too tight or a shoe that is suddenly too small.

Skin that “pits” or “dents” with finger pressure or skin that feels “tight”. This might include any changes in the texture of the skin as well. Skin that looks shiny, has fewer folds.

An infection in the “at risk” limb. This includes any abnormal redness, tenderness in specific areas. Also, familiarize yourself with the signs of infection.

Signs of Infection

  • Sweats or chills
  • Fever over 100 degrees F (38 degrees C)
  • Sweats or chills
  • Skin rash
  • Pain, tenderness, redness or swelling
  • Wound or cut that won’t heal
  • Red, warm or draining sore
  • Sore throat, scratchy throat or pain when swallowing
  • Sinus drainage, nasal congestion headaches or tenderness along upper cheekbones
  • Persistent dry or moist cough that lasts more than two days
  • White patches in your mouth or on your tongue
  • Nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
  • Flu-like symptoms (chills, aches, headache or fatigue) or generally feeling “lousy”
  • Trouble urinating: pain or burning, constant urge or frequent urination

What to do if you have any of the symptoms

Immediately let your doctor know. Seek (or demand) a referral to a “certified” lymphedema therapist for an evaluation and possible treatment plan. Read our page on how to choose a lymphedema therapist for tips on finding a credible and trained therapist.

If you do experience any or all the warning signs, please do not put off seeking help.

Lymphedema People Related Pages

Lymphedema People Resources

warning_signs_of_lymphedema.txt · Last modified: 2012/10/16 14:40 (external edit)