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Common Questions about Lymphedema

istock 520805815 1 As a lymphedema specialist, Dr. Patel treats a wide variety of cases daily and fields many questions. Here, we answer a few to help you better understand this condition. Information is the most empowering tool that people with lymphedema may utilize to manage their well-being. If you have questions that are not answered here, please do not hesitate to contact our office directly.

Is lymphedema related to radiation treatment or just lymph node removal?

While lymph node removal is a direct cause of lymphedema, studies show that radiation treatment can be, as well. Some research suggests that radiation can be equally as traumatic to the lymphatic system as surgery such as axillary lymph node dissection. If both dissection and radiation are performed, the risk of lymphedema increases.

Does lymph node removal under one arm trigger problems in other areas of the body?

No. Lymphedema is what we call a regional complication of lymph flow interruption. Only the area directly around the dissected or treated lymph node may experience fluid accumulation.

Is lymphedema something I will have to worry about forever?

We hesitate to use the word “worry” when discussing how to approach the prospect of lymphedema. People who are within one year of radiation therapy or surgery are most at risk of this condition. It is during the first year when 90 percent of cases present. After three years of being symptom-free, the risk of lymphedema is quite low. That being said, patients are encouraged to remain watchful and cautious, understanding that the risk of lymphedema never fully goes away.

If I have lymphedema, should I use the affected arm or leg every day?

Yes. While physical activity increases blood flow and thus increases lymph in the body, including the affected arm or leg, one should not become sedentary for fear of inducing fluid accumulation. When lymphedema has been diagnosed, the patient can learn their unique threshold for physical movements. Over time, this threshold can expand by increasing activity gradually and with the use of an appropriate compression garment.

Lymphedema is a unique condition that may affect every patient differently. For that reason, Dr. Patel believes in developing custom treatments for each person. To discuss lymphedema and its effect on your life, call our Glendale office at 323-442-7920 and schedule your visit.

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