Leg Lymphedema

A comprehensive overview of lymphedema covering subjects as symptoms, diagnostics, research, causes and pictures
Leg Lymphedema

Leg lymphedema

     Lymphedema is generally a painless condition, but patients may experience a sensation of dull weight, chronic at the inferior limb and some patients are often concerned with the appearance of the foot. Leg lymphedema is gradually progressing to the upper part of the leg, so the entire member becomes edematous. In the early stages of lymphedema, edema is soft and lets easily well to the pressure.

     In the chronic stages the member shows a wood appearance and the tissue becomes endured and fibrotic. The leg looses its normal contour and the toes appear square. Lymphedema will be differentiated from other diseases that cause unilateral leg edema, such as deep thrombosis and chronic failure; in this last one, the edema is soft and there are often signs of stasis dermatitis and superficial varicose veins.

     If your leg is affected, avoid standing for long periods of time or to sit down with your feet on the floor. Rest your leg on a chair or on pillows. The leg should be at the same level with the bottom and the knee must be supported. This will limit the formation of lymph.

     Physic exercise is generally beneficial for a swollen leg, as long as it is an activity that you are used to; for example, if you are already practicing aerobics, tennis or cycling. Walking contributes to speeding the flow of lymph. If you want to start practicing a new sport or a new form of exercises, check first with the lymphedema specialist which is treating you. Too much physical activity, especially if sudden, can lead to increased edema. This happens because blood flow increases and thus producing more lymph. If you have applied compression bandages you should wear them during the exercises.

     Swimming is a complete exercise, very beneficial. It facilitates the movement because the water supports the swollen leg when you don't wear bandages. If you can not swim, you can do water aerobics. You need to take a shower after exercises in the pool to reduce the risk of infections. Apply a moisturizer because the chlorine or the salt from the water dries the skin.

     Rest is as important as exercise. Do not forget to support your member in the correct position when you relax.

Advice on leg lymphedema

     If you have leg lymphedema:

  • Wear rubber boots and long pants when you work in the garden
  • Do not walk barefoot, especially on the beach, around swimming pools or showers utilities if the leg is swollen. This precaution will reduce the risk of cuts, scratches or infection in the foot.

     Edema can reduce mobility in the foot. Try to use the member as normally as you can because the activity will help lymphatic drainage. Lymphedema specialists can suggest a few simple exercises that are designed to reduce persistent swelling. If you have a low mobility of the joint or limb, a physiotherapist can help.

     If your leg is bandaged, you will need to wear shoes with laces tied with two numbers higher than usual. This will allow you to walk comfortably and without danger. Slippers should be avoided because they will not be well suited over bandages.

     Suitable shoes are very important if you have leg lymphedema. It is recommended to wear a shoe without heels and tied with laces for providing appropriate support and to help limit the edema. Some people can not wear shoes the same size on both legs.

     You should not dismiss the elegant style of dresses if you suffer from lymphedema. Bandages can be covered with long sleeves, gloves, pants or skirts.

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