I am a Plurabelle Paddler since 2013 after successfully completing treatment for Inflammatory Breast Cancer, a rare and very aggressive form of breast cancer. When treatment finished I found it very difficult to get my fitness back. As I had all of my lymph nodes removed from my underarm I had the added issue of...
Symptoms and diagnosis
The early signs of lymphoedema
The main symptom of lymphoedema is swelling in all or part of a limb or another part of the body. The early signs of lymphoedema include:
- Swelling in part of your body. At first this may come and go and it will often be worse at the end of the day, then go down overnight.
- A feeling of heaviness, tightness, soreness or stiffness in the affected area.
- Skin changes over time. For example, your skin may feel tight, shiny and taut.
- Clothing or jewellery feeling tighter than usual.
It is important to recognise the early signs of lymphoedema. Early treatment for lymphoedema can help control swelling and stop it getting worse. Talk to your GP about your symptoms as soon as possible.
Different types of lymphoedema
(Image credits from left: Winship Cancer Institute / Oxford Lymphoedema Practice / One Pine Hill / The Cancer Help Blog)
Talk to your GP about your symptoms as soon as possible. In many cases, it’s possible for your GP to make a diagnosis of lymphoedema by:
- Discussing your symptoms and medical history
- Examining the affected body part and measuring the distance around it to see if it’s enlarged
Although it’s not always necessary, sometimes further tests are used to assess and monitor your condition. These tests include:
- Measuring limb volume: manually using a tape measure, using a water displacement tank or using infrared light (Perometry)
- Bioimpedance testing where electrodes are used to indicate the presence of fluid in your tissue
- Imaging tests and scans (MRI, CT, Ultrasound or Lymphoscintigraphy)
Manual limb measurement
(Image credits: Riverina Hand Therapy / Lymphoedema Scotland)
Read Nina's interview with Arlene Harris from the Irish Independent...
My experience started in 1992, at the tender age of nineteen when my left leg started to swell. I was admitted to hospital for what was thought to be a blood clot. I was treated with medications and advised to keep my leg elevated. The following month, I developed cellulitis in my leg (a soft...
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 and during chemotherapy I developed lymphoedema in my right arm. Initially, I was able to avail of occasional manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) at a local Cancer Support Centre, I also went privately to a local MLD therapist for more regular treatment. I exercise my arm on a...