A chronic, uncurable condition called lymphedema is diagnosed in more than 200,000 people in the United States each year. While you may not be familiar with medical name, you probably know the condition.
Lymphedema is swelling that occurs in one or both arms and legs. It’s oftentimes caused by the removal or damage to lymph nodes as part of cancer treatment, and it can also occur due to surgery or an infection. The bottom line is that there is usually an outside reason it occurs, which is called secondary lymphedema. Old age, obesity, and rheumatoid or psoriatic arthritis are all risk factors of developing lymphedema after cancer or other secondary causes.
Primary lymphedema, which is caused by a handful of inherited conditions, is rare.
Patients are advised to self-care via a process called complete decongestive therapy (CDT). A doctor will begin these treatments and educate the patient so they are eventually able to manage it themselves.
If CDT is not done properly, the person becomes prone to infections and ulcers; natural skin folds can also deepen, causing other skin issues.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Lymphedema
Avoid Injuries to Your Arm and Leg: Cuts, scrapes, and burns can get easily infected. Even simple procedures like blood draws and vaccinations can cause an infection in the affected limb.
Rest Arm or Leg While Recovering From Cancer Treatment: While exercise and stretching is encouraged, avoid vigorous activity until you’re fully recovered from surgery or radiation.
Avoid Ice or Heat on Affected Limb
Elevate Your Arm or Leg: Keep the affected limb above the level of your heart.
Avoid Tight Clothing
Keep the Limb Clean: Inspect the skin daily, make nail care a priority, don’t walk barefoot, and watch for changes in your skin.
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