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Lymphedema (cont.)

How Can I Prevent Lymphedema?

Primary lymphedema cannot be prevented; it is possible to take steps to reduce your risk of developing secondary lymphedema if you are at risk.

  • Avoid heavy lifting (including carrying heavy purses) with an affected arm.
  • Drink plenty of fluids; dehydration can worsen lymphedema.
  • Avoid environmental irritants in the affected area, such asinsect bites or stings and sunburn.
  • Practice good skin care and hygiene.
  • Don't wear tight clothing or jewelry on the affected limb. Even the use of blood pressure cuffs on an affected arm should be avoided.

How Long Does Lymphedema Last?

As described above, lymphedema cannot be cured, although treatments are available to help manage the condition and lessen the severity of symptoms. Because the immune system is weakened in areas affected by lymphedema, bacterial infections often develop in the skin or in the tissues beneath the skin. These infections must be treated promptly to avoid spreading to other parts of the body.

A rare cancer of the lymphatic vessels known as lymphangiosarcoma can develop as a result of long-term lymphedema. Individuals who have had long-term lymphedema for 10 years or more have some risk of developing this cancer. Lymphangiosarcoma appears as a reddish or purplish lump on the skin and spreads rapidly. Treatment is amputation of the affected limb.

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCES: "Filariasis."
<> "Lymphedema."

The National Lymphedema Network

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/21/2016

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