What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema?

Although we usually associate the word “edema” with swelling in general, we’ve been—of course—speaking specifically about lymphedema in relation to mastectomy surgery, postoperatively. Now, swelling after most surgeries where there are incisions in the skin, particularly large ones that include sutures, is normal and to be expected.

However, there are some telltale indicators you should look for and be aware of if you have recently undergone either a simple, double, or radical modified mastectomy, or if you are facing one of these procedures.

  • Swelling in the arms, hands, fingers, shoulders, chest, or legs; such swelling may arise for the first time after a traumatic event, such as injuries causing bruising, cuts, sunburn, and even sports injuries. An infection in the part of the body that has been treated for cancer, or after prolonged airplane flights of several hours can bring about edema.
  • Heaviness sensations in the arms or legs.
  • Tightness of the skin.
  • Diminished flexibility and mobility in the hands, wrists or ankles.
  • Trouble getting clothing to fit at a specific part of your body.
  • Tight-fitting bracelet, watch, or ring that wasn’t tight before.

If you fear or suspect you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should contact your surgeon or at least your regular physician immediately. The sooner these things are addressed, the more readily he or she can get things under control.

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