Lymphedema is swelling in one or both of your arms or legs. It happens when there is a blockage in your lymphatic system, part of your immune and circulatory systems. The blockage prevents lymphatic fluid from draining, which causes the swelling.

The causes of lymphedema include:

  • Infection
  • Cancer
  • Scar tissue from radiation therapy or surgical removal of lymph nodes
  • Inherited conditions in which lymph nodes or vessels are absent or abnormal at birth

Lymphedema Symptoms

Many people who have lymphedema don’t develop symptoms until 15 or more years after an injury to the lymphatic system. Symptoms can include:

  • Swelling of part or all of your arm or leg, including your fingers or toes
  • Aching, weakness, redness, heaviness, or tightness in your arms or legs
  • Less flexibility in your wrists, hands or ankles
  • Recurring infections in your affected limb
  • Hardening and thickening of the skin on your arm or leg

Lymphedema Diagnosis

At Wake Forest Baptist, we use several tools to diagnose lymphedema. Your physician may recommend any of the following:

Lymphedema Treatment

There is no cure for lymphedema. However, we will work with you to develop a personalized lymphedema care plan to reduce your swelling and control your pain. Treatments may include:

  • Exercise program
  • Compression therapy
  • Lymph drainage through massage