Lymphedema Care During Winter Months

Bonnie Annis

Anyone treated with surgery for breast cancer is at risk of developing lymphedema. This uncomfortable side effect usually begins with a slight, uncomfortable swelling in or around the armpit area. The condition of lymphedema can develop immediately after surgery to remove breast cancer or it can appear many months later. It may even appear years after the initial breast cancer surgery.

Often, the swelling moves from the armpit area into the rest of the arm causing discomfort. It may feel like a tightness or heaviness and can seem to grow worse throughout the day. Normal daily activities can exacerbate the swelling, that’s why it’s important for anyone with post-surgical swelling to pay close attention to symptoms and report them to a doctor.

Lymphedema does not magically go away and there is no treatment to remove it. There are ways to lessen the symptoms, however, and those include compression sleeves, manual lymphatic drainage, elevation, physical therapy and pneumatic compression pumps. These treatments are usually prescribed by an attentive physician and will be determined according to the severity of each case.

Summer months are difficult for those suffering with lymphedema. Caring for lymphatic limbs during this time of year usually revolve around finding ways to reduce swelling brought on by soaring heat and exposure to the sun. Winter months bring a different set of challenges.

I’ve found my lymphedema seems worse in the winter months but for those, like me, who struggle with the effects of lymphedema year-round, it can be a daunting task to keep under control but over the past few years, I’ve learned some good information I’d like to share with you.

Helpful tips for winter limb care:  

Lymphedema, although frustrating and uncomfortable, can be managed. With a little extra effort, protecting your arms will become second nature.

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