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What Puts You at Risk for Lymphedema?

What Puts You at Risk for Lymphedema?

Cancer treatment can lead to an increase for the risk of lymphedema. Knowing the risk factors of lymphedema can help head off potential issues and HPFY can help.

Stages of Lymphedema
Latency Stage Transport Capacity is reduced
No visible edema
Subjective complaints of heaviness, achiness
Stage 1
Reversible lymphedema
Accumulation of protein-rich edema
Pitting
Reduces w/elevation (no fibrosis)
Stage 2
Spontaneously Irreversible Lymphedema
Accumulation of protein-rich edema
Pitting becomes progressively difficult
Fibrosis
Stage 3
Lymphostatic Elephantiasis
Accumulation of protein-rich edema
Fibrosis, sclerosis, skin changes, papillomas, hyperkeratosis

 

Some treatments for cancer can have negative side effects and the risk of lymphedema is definitely one of them. Damage to the lymphatic system during treatment for cancer can lead to swelling in different parts of the body. To fully combat this means fully understanding the risk factors of lymphedema and finding medical aids to combat the effects of lymphedema since there is no cure. These risk factors can include lymph node removal, radiation therapy, multiple chest surgery, and obesity according to breastcancer.org.

What Is Lymphedema?

For those that have undergone treatment for cancer, usually the treatment does not cause injury to the patient, but rarely (less than 200,000 cases per year) injury to the lymphatic system can cause lymphedema. It is commonly caused by lymph node dissection or radiation treatment from cancer, predominantly breast cancer, but can also be linked to genetic disorders. This can cause swelling in the arms or legs due to localized fluid retention and tissue swelling that can be a lifelong issue. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this malady, but there are treatments to ease the effects of lymphedema. Many patients who suffer from cancer may not even develop the symptoms of lymphedema until months or years after treatment and the swelling can be mild to severe. The symptoms can include:

  • Swelling of the arm or hands (including fingers)
  • Swelling of the legs, including toes
  • Heaviness/tightness in arms and/or legs
  • Increased infections
  • Pain/discomfort in affected limbs
  • Diminished movement in hands or legs

The symptoms can lead to a diagnosis of lymphedema which needs to be verified by a lab test or through imaging. The risk of lymphedema after a mastectomy increases as more of the lymph nodes are removed. You should ask your doctor if any treatment (radiation) or surgery for cancer involves your lymph nodes since this increases your risk of developing lymphedema.

Battling Lymphedema

Once you’re symptoms of lymphedema have been diagnosed, what is the best way to combat this disorder? Your doctor may recommend seeing an occupational therapist that is specially trained to treat lymphedema. Other options for dealing with lymphedema include:

  1. BSN Jobst Medicalwear 15-20 mmHg Compression Armsleeve: This compression sleeve manages swelling in the palm/wrist area due to upper extremity lymphedema. It helps maintain limb size and has reduced compression at the wrist so that when worn with a gauntlet provides effective and comfortable compression.
What Puts You at Risk for Lymphedema?
BSN Jobst Medicalwear 15-20 mmHg Compression Armsleeve
 
  1. Norco Therapeutic Compression Glove - Tipless Finger Over Wrist Length: This compression glove provides smooth edema control while providing warmth and compression throughout the hand and fingers. The slit on the cuff allows for easy application and has a compression rating of 15-25 mmHg for edematous tissue. It is available in two different wrist length and finger styles for easy application and a non-constricting fit for comfort.
What Puts You at Risk for Lymphedema?
Norco Therapeutic Compression Glove - Tipless Finger Over Wrist Length​
 
  1. Huntleigh Hydroven Flowtron FPR Sequential Lymphedema Pump: Enhancing lymphatic and venous flow can help alleviate the symptoms of lymphedema. Designed for ease-of-use and portability, this pump provides longer squeeze time with shorter rest periods between inflations and has a pressure range of 30-100 mmHg. Weighing only 5.25 pounds means that the pump can be easily transported for use whenever needed.
What Puts You at Risk for Lymphedema?
Huntleigh Hydroven Flowtron FPR Sequential Lymphedema Pump
 
  1. JoViPak Serratus Anterior Lymphedema Pad: After cancer surgery (mastectomy or lumpectomy), maintaining lymph flow can minimize the risk of lymphedema. This pad directs the lymph flow laterally down the inguinal nodes and posteriorly toward the spine. This can be worn with most mastectomy or standard bras and is washable and even autoclaved since it is made from foam that is stable to 300°F. It is made from material that wicks moisture away from your skin and dries quickly to avoid potential skin breakdowns.
What Puts You at Risk for Lymphedema?
JoViPak Serratus Anterior Lymphedema Pad
 

The risk factors of lymphedema are well-known. Understanding the symptoms can help you bring this malady to your doctor’s attention in order to quickly combat the issue. The use of specially designed medical aids can help you tackle this problem and improve your quality of life as you recover from the causes of lymphedema such as cancer treatments.

 

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