Summer presents unique challenges for those with lymphedema. Here are some tips to help.
Last July, I wrote an article for CURE with tips on how to have a safe summer with lymphedema. Now that we’re facing extreme temperatures from the summertime heat, I thought it might be a good time to offer a refresher course. Lymphedema is challenging any time of year but even more so in the summer months. But before we get into summertime care, let me refresh you on lymphedema, its signs, and symptoms.
The lymphatic system is a series of complicated nodes and vessels that are located throughout the body. This system is vital in removing toxins and waste from the body. When the body is unable to drain lymphatic fluid via the lymph system, lymphedema can occur. This condition results in an unnatural and uncomfortable swelling. Without the aid of compression garments, manual lymphatic drainage or other helpful ways of detoxing the lymphatic system, infection and more serious problems can occur. Lymphedema normally occurs during or after treatment for breast cancer, but can develop any time in a person’s life. It can result from other causes such as infection, scar tissue from radiation therapy, surgical removal of lymph nodes, or inherited conditions in which lymph nodes or vessels are absent therefore, it is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of early lymphedema. Lymphedema is not curable but it is treatable.
Signs/symptoms of lymphedema:
· Persistent swelling (this may come and go)
· A heavy feeling of the extremity
· Tightness of skin in the affected limb
· Hardness or firmness in an extremity
· Decreased flexibility
· Ill-fitting clothes or jewelry on the affected extremity
· Weeping from the skin
Now that you have an understanding of what lymphedema is, what causes it, and how it’s treated, let’s talk about how to survive summer without exacerbating the condition. Summer presents unique challenges for those suffering from lymphedema. Heat is not a Lymphie’s friend! (A “Lymphie” is a person who suffers from the effects of lymphedema.) It’s very important to stay as cool as possible but no one wants to stay indoors all summer! Planning ahead will help reduce your risk of swelling and these tips can help you do just that:
There’s no reason Lymphies can’t enjoy a safe and healthy summer. By following these tips and guidelines, summer should never be a season to dread so get out and enjoy the sunshine!