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Lymphedema (cont.)

Exams and Tests

The diagnosis of lymphedema is often obvious given the history of a surgical procedure or other condition that includes damage to lymph nodes. A careful physical examination and medical history will be necessary to rule out other conditions that can cause limb swelling, such as kidney or heart failure.

In some cases, specialized imaging tests may be ordered to confirm the diagnosis or obtain information about the cause of lymphedema. These may include:

  • CT or MRI scans
  • Doppler ultrasound scans, which can identify deep blood clots that may cause limb swelling
  • Lymphoscintigraphy, which is a test that illustrates the flow of fluid in lymph vessels. A tracer dye is injected into lymph vessels prior to imaging studies.

Lymphedema Treatment

Lymphedema is not curable; although there are treatments that can help minimize the symptoms and ease discomfort.

Self-Care at Home

Your health care practitioner can advise you about the best ways to care for your affected limb(s). In general, it is important to practice good skin hygiene and avoid heavy lifting or strenuous activity with the affected limb. Tight clothing and jewelry should also be avoided. Take care to avoid sunburn, insect bites, cuts, abrasions, and dehydration, since all of these can worsen lymphedema.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2014

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