What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a chronic condition that occurs when the lymph system is blocked or damaged, leading to a fluid build-up that causes swelling.

It can be classified as primary (congenital abnormality of the lymphatic system) or secondary (damage to the lymphatic vessels due to surgery, radiation therapy or other traumas).

Early signs of lymphedema

– Jewelry feeling tight although no weight gain has been noticed;
– Feeling of heaviness or fullness in the affected limb;
– Changes in skin colour or texture;
– Decreased flexibility of the affected limb.

Treatment

Once the condition is assessed by a healthcare professional, the patient must be thoroughly informed about managing lymphedema and the importance of his involvement.
The healthcare professional may request that the patient undergo Complete Decongestive Therapy (CDT), which includes manual lymph drainage, bandaging, skin care and exercise.

Once the swelling has been controlled and reduced as much as possible, compression garments must be worn. These garments help prevent swelling and reduce it by moving lymph fluid from the limb back into the body.
Careful fitting is needed, as a poorly-fitting garment may be more likely to worsen lymphedema1.
A study conducted on 114 patients showed that wearing correctly fitted compression garments was effective in controlling edema in about 90% of the patients2.

At any given time, you can refer to our Store Locator to find a lymphedema specialized fitter near you.

Resources

Assistance and support are available for patients living with lymphedema. The Canadian Lymphedema Framework along with all Provincial Lymphedema Associations can put you in touch with the local resources in your area.

1 Lymphedema: What Every Woman With Breast Cancer Should Know. American Cancer Society. 2015;1-9.

2 Richard C. Britton M.D.; Paul A. Nelson M.D., Causes and Treatment of Postmastectomy Lymphedema of the Arm. JAMA. 1962; 180(2): 95-102.