What is lymphedema?

The role of our lymphatic system is a most important one, of cleaning our bodies and supporting our immune system.  It consists of tiny, delicate lymphatic vessels that carry the lymph, or non-blood fluids of our body, towards the lymph nodes that essentially help to filter, reabsorb or excrete the water and rubbish flowing through our bodies.

Lymphedema is a condition that effects the flow of fluids, or lymph, through the lymphatic vessels in your body.  A small percentage of people are genetically predisposed to lymphedema, but it is most predominantly acquired as a result of a physical trauma to an area of the body, such as blunt trauma, surgery, radiation or burns.

Up to 20% of post-breast cancer surgeries can result in a lymphatic arm.  Warning signs for lymphatic disturbance in the arm could simply be a tingling or numb sensation. More worrisome symptoms could be heaviness in the limb, mild swelling, redness, skin thickening, weeping skin, poor nail health.  If you are worried that you are developing lymphedema, you should see your doctor for a referral to a lymphatic physiotherapist for assessment.

Beth Sackville (Physiotherapist and Lymphedema Therapist)