Signs & symptoms
The signs or symptoms of lymphedema may include:
* a feeling of fullness or heaviness in the arm or leg
* a feeling of tightness in the skin of an arm or leg
* decreased movement or flexibility in the hand, wrist or ankle
* difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area
* tight fitting of a ring, watch or bracelet though you haven't gained weight
If any of these symptoms lasts more than a week or two, or you notice persistent swelling, you may want to talk to your doctor, especially if you have had lymph nodes removed or had radiation treatment.
Prevention & control
Lymphedema is a very serious condition. Besides being uncomfortable and sometimes painful, if left untreated it can cause debilitating weakness in the limbs, interfere with the healing of wounds and lead to infection. There is no cure for lymphedema and once it develops, it can be a long-term condition requiring daily treatment.
Although there is no scientific evidence that people can prevent lymphedema, most experts recommend some basic guidelines, which may lower the risk of developing lymphedema or delay its onset.
The following are some suggestions for care from ACS. The most important thing is to try to avoid any infections, or burns or injuries to the affected area. The body responds to these by making extra lymph fluid, which can lead to lymphedema.
* Keep the area/limb clean and moisturized.
* Avoid cuts, scratches, burns, hangnails and insect bites Treat any of these by washing, using an antibacterial cream and clean bandage.
* Use an electric shaver, which is less likely to cut the skin.
* Use insect repellent and sunscreen when outdoors.
* Wear protective gloves when working in the garden or kitchen.
* Exercise regularly, but don't fatigue the affected limb. Your doctor can help you develop an exercise program.
* Wear loose-fitting clothing and jewelry.
* Avoid heavy lifting and pulling.
* If your arm is affected, avoid using shoulder straps on briefcases or purses. Also, have blood drawn, IV's and shots given in the unaffected arm.
* If your leg is affected, wear well-fitting closed shoes; don't go barefoot. Also, avoid socks or stockings with tight elastic bands.
* Report any redness, swelling, increased heat or tightness to your doctor.
There are treatments for lymphedema, which can help reduce the swelling and prevent it from worsening. The treatment will depend on the cause. If lymphedema develops because of infection, the first course of treatment may be antibiotics, which can reduce the swelling and redness.
If the lymphedema is not caused by infection, your doctor can help develop a treatment plan for you. The treatment is usually performed by a physical therapist or other specialist who has specific training in this area. The treatment is often called Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) and consists of skin care, massage, exercise, special bandaging, manual drainage and compression garments. The sooner treatment is started, the better. Seeing your doctor right away can mean a shorter course of treatment to get the lymphedema under control.
lymphadenitis is an inflammation of the lymph nodes, which dot the network of lymphatic vessels and provide a collecting area for the immune system cells that defend against invaders. Lymphadenitis is not uncommon in children. One area that is often affected is the neck, where lymphadenitis can develop as a result of strep throat or infectious mononucleosis. Causes can include bacterial, viral or other infection. people can develop an infection following a cat scratch or bite. This is commonly known as "cat scratch fever." Treatment depends on the specific cause of infection and its severity.
Lymphangitis is an inflammation of a lymphatic vessel. The lymphatic vessels are what collect and move lymph back into the blood circulation. Lymphangitis is often caused by bacterial infection and can be treated with antibiotics.