Symptoms of Lymphedema

Swelling generally increases gradually, and does not recede. Upon waking a person with stage 1 lymphedema may not see a difference in the size of the affected area. However, if he or she presses a finger against the tissue, the area holds the indentation. This is called "pitting".

photo of hands, one with lymphedema swellingThis pitting eventually goes away, but is replaced by tissue with a spongy consistency, as fluid continues to accumulate. This is stage 2.

Eventually the affected area will reach stage 3, where the tissue is so full of fluid that it becomes hard and unresponsive. The limb or area is noticeably swollen and will not recede on its own. in addition to the swelling, the affected area is highly vulnerable to infection, as the fluids are not circulating and are high in protein, which assists bacterial growth.

What to look for:

Some symptoms that may indicate lymphedema

Let your doctor know if you experience any of these symptoms:

• a heavy feeling in your arm
• a tight sensation in your arm or hand
• swelling in your arm or hand
• decreased flexibility in your hand or wrist
• shirt sleeves or jewelry that feel tight
• skin that may “pit” with any finger pressure

Call your doctor if your affected arm or hand is warm, red, swollen or if you have a fever. These symptoms could indicate an infection and may require antibiotics.

Source: Susan G. Komen For The Cure

   For At Risk Survivors

  Who is at Risk?

  Symptoms to Look For

  Reducing Risk

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  Breathing as Exercise

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Supported by grants from Susan G. Komen SW Florida
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