March Is Lymphedema Awareness Month

march is lymphedema awareness monthBRINGING MORE AWARENESS TO LYMPHEDEMA

March is Lymphedema Awareness Month, and March 6th is World Lymphedema Day. These dates help to bring more awareness and to educate the public about this disease. Ten million Americans are afflicted with lymphedema. However, this is just an estimate, as many believe the numbers are much higher because people with this disease are often misdiagnosed.

I have been fitting compression garments for lymphedema for over a dozen years now, and it still surprises me how many people have dealt with this disease for years and have never been diagnosed. The knowledge and awareness of lymphedema have improved, but I feel we still have a long way to go and many people to help. 

LYMPHEDEMAUnderstanding lymphedema

Lymphedema is a chronic and progressive lymphatic disease that results in swelling. This swelling can become so bad that it is disfiguring. Lymphedema most often occurs in the arms or the legs but can occur anywhere throughout the body.

Primary lymphedema is when there is something wrong with the lymph system at birth. Secondary lymphedema is acquired through some trauma to the body. This trauma can include surgical procedures, infections, radiation, burns, or lymph system injury.

When the lymphatic system is not working correctly, lymph can accumulate in an area, causing swelling. Lymph is a protein-rich fluid that carries waste out of our body and is part of the immune system. Swelling occurs when this fluid cannot move due to a damaged system. Furthermore, because waste builds up, it can cause recurrent infection. Any trauma, even bug bites, scratches, and sunburn, can cause a flare-up of lymphedema in an already compromised lymph system.

compression garments for lymphedemaMANAGEMENT OF LYMPHEDEMA

There is no cure for lymphedema at this time! However, if diagnosed and treated early, it can be managed. I recommend seeking a lymphedema specialist if you feel this is a condition you are dealing with. A lymphedema specialist may be a doctor, but it also could be a certified lymphedema therapist. They will assist you in designing a treatment plan that will work best for your condition and lifestyle. This treatment may include massage therapy called manual lymphatic drainage (MLD). Treatment and management of lymphedema may include exercisecompression garments, pneumatic pumps, and diet. In some cases, surgery can also help improve the condition.

LYMPHEDEMA SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

It’s essential to recognize the signs and symptoms of lymphedema! When these signs are recognized, seek medical attention at an early stage. The earlier the stage of lymphedema, the easier it is to manage and treat. Some signs to look for include:Understanding Lymphedema

  • Swelling in part of the body
  • Skin feeling tight or hard
  • A change of texture to the skin
  • A feeling of heaviness in a limb
  • Less ability to move in the joints
  • Trouble fitting your arm into a sleeve or your leg into pants
  • Jewelry feeling tight

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT LYMPHEDEMA

Since lymphedema is often underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed, becoming as educated as possible about this disease is essential. You are your own best advocate for your health and well-being! Two organizations I support and subscribe to are the National Lymphedema Network and Lymphatic Education and Research Network (LE&RN). These organizations are excellent resources for learning more and helping you navigate the medical profession regarding lymphedema. There are also many support groups and educational programs on social media. A few of my favorite influencers on social media are Amy RiveraAmanda Sobeyand Alexa Erolano, to name a few. friendship support lymphedema

 You are not alone!

 

Disclaimer – This blog is for general information purposes only. Furthermore, the information contained in this blog is not a substitute for medical advice – always consult a licensed healthcare professional for advice on your specific condition.

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