Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema

Lymphedema can occur immediately following surgery or radiation for treatment of malignancy. Or lymphedema can appear gradually or suddenly at some later point as a result of an additional load on the lymphatic system caused by an insect bite, hot humid weather or air travel.

There may be no overt or measurable signs of swelling, but the patient feels subtle, definite differences between affected and non affected side or limbs. Lymphedema generally progresses and can lead to some of the following symptoms:

  • Sensation of heaviness, fullness or tight skin over affected area
  • Restricted range of motion limitations in performing normal activities
  • Progressive increase in size and volume of affected limb/body part with resulting difficulty finding comfortable clothing or footwear
  • Thickening of the skin with possible leakage of fluid through the skin
  • Repeated episodes of infection (cellulitis) necessitating treatment with antibiotics and hospitalization if infection becomes systemic
  • Constant medical care and expense


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