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Lymphedema

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by Kellicker PG

(Primary Lymphedema; Secondary Lymphedema)

 

Diagnosis

Cases of lymphedema can vary from mild to severe. Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Images may need to be taken of your body structures. This can be done with:
Other tests may include:
  • Measurement of your arms and/or legs—to assess the severity of fluid build-up
  • Lymphoscintigraphy—a test that uses dye to trace its travel through your lymph system
 

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best plan for you. Options include the following:

Drainage

Your doctor or physical therapist may show you exercises to drain fluid out of your arm or leg. Massage may also be used to help fluid drain. Sometimes, external pumps are used to help drain the fluid build-up.

Compression

Compression stockings, sleeves, or bandages are often used to direct fluid away from your affected arm or leg. You may be shown how to apply a compression device.
Compression stockings, sleeves, or bandages are often used to direct fluid away from your affected arm or leg. You may be shown how to apply a compression device.

Medicine

Areas of lymphedema are at risk for infection. Your doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent or treat infection. If the condition is painful, your doctor may suggest or prescribe a pain reliever.
Diuretics (water pills) may be useful for short periods of time for swelling in some causes of lymphedema.

Surgery

In severe cases, surgery to remove extra tissue from your arm or leg may be considered.
 

RESOURCES

National Cancer Institute
http://www.cancer.gov

National Lymphedema Network
http://www.lymphnet.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Cancer Society
http://www.cancer.ca

Lymphedema Association of Quebec
http://www.infolympho.ca

 

References


Lymphedema. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/lymphedema/patient. Updated March 6, 2013. Accessed May 16, 2013.


Lymphedema. Society for Vascular Surgery website. Available at: http://www.vascularweb.org/vascularhealth/Pages/lymphedema.aspx. Updated December 2011. Accessed May 16, 2013.


What is lymphedema? The National Lymphedema Network website. Available at: http://www.lymphnet.org/lymphedemaFAQs/overview.htm. Accessed May 16, 2013.


1/22/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php: Torres Lacomba M, Yuste Sánchez MJ, Zapico Goñi A, et al. Effectiveness of early physiotherapy to prevent lymphoedema after surgery for breast cancer: randomised, single blinded, clinical trial. BMJ. 2010;340:b5396.

 

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