Lymphedema is the build-up of fluids in your body. It can cause an arm or leg to swell up and become painful.
Lymphedema may start 6 to 8 weeks after surgery or after radiation treatment for cancer.
It can also start very slowly after your cancer treatment is over. You may not notice symptoms until 18 to 24 months after treatment. Sometimes it can take years to develop.
Even a small infection or injury can cause lymphedema to start.
Use your arm with lymphedema for everyday activities, such as combing your hair, bathing, dressing, and eating. But, be careful not to overwork your arm or leg. Rest this arm above the level of your heart 2 or 3 times a day while you are lying down.
Clean the skin of your arm or leg every day. Use lotion to keep your skin moist. Check your skin every day for any changes.
Protect your skin from injuries, even small ones:
Take care of your feet:
Do not put too much pressure on your arm or leg.
Taking care of cuts and scratches:
Taking care of burns:
Living with lymphedema can be very hard. Ask your doctor about a special physical therapist who can tell you about ways to prevent lymphedema, how diet and exercise affect lymphedema, how to choose comfortable and flattering clothes, and talk to you about your feelings.
Wear a compression sleeve when traveling by air if you fly a lot, or for long flights. If possible, keep your arm above the level of your heart during long flights.
Call your doctor if you have any of these symptoms:
© 2011 University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). All rights reserved.
UMMC is a member of the University of Maryland Medical System,
22 S. Greene Street, Baltimore, MD 21201. TDD: 1-800-735-2258 or 1.866.408.6885