It can cause pain and swelling—lymphedema is a common diagnosis that’s either caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system or by the removal of lymph nodes. “Many times when there are lymph nodes removed from the underarms usually it’s associated and can be a cause for lymphedema, which can occur not only in the upper extremities or the arms, but it can also happen in the breast,” explained Barbara Pagano-Westgate, a physical therapist with Lee Health.
If lymphedema is caused by a blockage, patients typically develop swelling in their arms or legs. “The most important part of treating lymphedema is compression though, whether it comes from a compression stocking, a compression garment, a compression pump,” she said.
If patients have lymphedema in their legs, it’s important to inspect their feet for any blisters or cuts which could lead to an infection. They should also wear closed toed shoes to help maintain balance and swelling.
“There is a specific type of massage; it’s called manual lymphatic drainage. It really is not a massage, it’s a light touch to the skin, and it has to be done in certain areas, to help move that fluid,” said Pagano-Westgate.
Maintaining a healthy body weight can also help decrease swelling. “What I notice is those that manage their weight they have an easier time with managing their swelling. The other thing that’s important with anyone who has swelling is activity. The only pump the lymphatic system has is the muscle pump. So it’s important to stay active and take steps daily to decrease the fluid in the legs,” said Pagano-Westgate.
Without treatment, lymphedema can get worse over time. Making it important to manage your symptoms daily.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.