Apr 8, 2008

Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema

If you have come here wondering what lymphedema is, or wondering if you could possibly be developing it, here is a brief overview of symptoms that could indicate lymphedema.

Mostly a persons History, Observations, Measurements, Signs and Symptoms diagnose Lymphedema. These include:

  • Swelling of a limb or body part.
  • Swelling that is pitting in nature (pressure leaves an indentation (pit) that slowly fills in again).
  • Swelling worsens over time.
  • Sensation of heaviness and fatigue in the swollen limb.
  • A dull aching in the limb.
  • Repeated episodes of infection (Cellulitis).
  • Clothing or Shoes do not fit.

There are a couple of studies that have been used to evaluate the lymphatic system, though not commonly used.

  • Lymphoscintigraphy - a water-based contrast medium, which does not damage lymphatic tissues, makes it possible for a gamma camera to trace the flow of lymph. A computer generates images based on the data gathered by the gamma camera.
  • Lymphangiography - A radiographic study of lymphatic structures following the injection of an oil-based contrast medium. (The purpose of the contrast medium is to make the lymph vessels and nodes visible on the x-rays.) This oil-based substance damages lymphatic vessels and this procedure is no longer used in the diagnosis of lymphedema.

A thorough history and evaluation is best at deciphering Lymphedema, and if further studies are indicated your therapist will consult with your physician to get them done.

Sonja M. Maul PT, CLT-LANA
National Board Certified Lymphedema Therapist

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