Lymphedema is, put simply, a chronic swelling. It happens when there is damage to or a blockage in the lymphatic system, making it difficult for lymphatic fluid to drain properly. As a result, fluid accumulates in the soft tissues of the affected area.

There are two types of lymphedema: primary lymphedema, which is genetic; and secondary lymphedema, which is acquired. There are a number of reasons secondary lymphedema can develop, including parasitic infection, injury or trauma, cancer treatments (such as radiation therapy), removal of lymph nodes (for cancer biopsies), surgery, tumors, and skin infections — just to name a few.

Lymphedema is chronic and progressive, and unfortunately, there is no cure yet. Symptoms can be managed, however. Treatment options include compression garments, pneumatic compression devices (also known as pumps), manual lymph drainage massages (MLD), and decongestive exercises; there are also surgical treatments to help alleviate symptoms.

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7 comments on “Lympha-what?

  1. Doreen Ercolano

    This blog is for lymphedema people of all ages, but i believe younger sufferers will feel especially at ease with these discussions because of your age. Plus the fact that you have suffered with this all your life. Also benefiting from this will be family members. It will shed an understanding of the painful self esteem issues that lymphedema people silently carry with them everyday. There is nothing more heart wrenching than watching a loved one suffer! Alexa, thank you for exposing your pain and triunph in the hope of helping others. You have a very generous heart :)

  2. Ah…”silently”?! Hi, Doreen, I’m Barbara, and I gather you’re related to Alexa. Mother? Sister? Cousin? Aunt? I sound like something out of Gilbert and Sullivan here; my apologies. I don’t carry issues silently, to the dismay of plenty of people I know, but tough luck to them, I have a dozen (literally) chronic conditions, several of them potentially life-threatening, others merely intermittently painful or agonizing and/or disabling. Primary lymphedema is one of them. I thought Alexa’s was primary (meaning hereditary) as well, but apparently it’s secondary to an injury. It’s no fun either way! Most people know nothing about lymphedema, so they tell us to just keep quiet about it. When we learn what we have and what it can do to us, that’s when we get noisy about it. Silent sufering does us no good at all…in fact, it does just the opposite!

  3. Golferwood

    New to all this! Have MS. No one told me this is what I have but need info on how to deal with sever swelling of my foot. Should my GP be the one diagnosing this?

  4. Hello I just like your blog, that it :)
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  5. Some GPs will diagnose Lymphedema but there really are so many variables. It really depends on the type. There are some doctors who specialize in this field like Dr. Kathleen Francis at St Barnabas in NJ. She is one of the best and we at Wyatt highly recommend her. Wyatt has treated thousands of Lymphedema patients since 2005. See us at @wyattrehab or visit to register for a Lymphedema Awareness Walk. Become a Sponsor for Peapod Purse there also. Peapod Purse is a non-profit that raises money for Lymphedema Patients.

    See this post about undiagnosed patients:

    See this post about the Lymphedema Awareness Walk:

    Lymph Alexa do you know Christy? She used to work for Wyatt…

  6. Joanne Nord

    I have been to 7 Dr’s and I am still in the dark. I have Lymphedema, but have aquired a severe blistery very itchey and weepy rash on the leg. Dr’s don’t know what it is. Is this normal with Lymphedema. What I need is a source that can tell me what to expect with this and maybe a group that have had this
    experience. As is I haven’t been able to wear presure sox because the weepy rash. Perhaps I am asking the wrong person if so could you give me some Info. to go to Thank you Joanne Nord

  7. My hubby Ric gets his treatments at the VA here in NY.. for diabetes-related LE, and his foot swelling is very mild. We were given a FlexiTouch compression device, which helps bigtime. But also, he went through the socks, and the weeping legs bit as well. He flat out told the Dr, “Look, if you insist I wear those socks, it actually makes me ‘cry’..this sticky, gold fluid leaks through the socks.” We had Ric stop wearing them, but instead, 1-he uses Hydrophore, which is a kind of high powered Vaseline. 2-and he gets on the compression device, 4x a week. 3-Also on YouTube there are wonderful lymph therapy massage videos. You might want to watch them, and also 4-exercises that help the circulation of lymph, and body ease of motion in general. Joanne, I am NOT saying this will ‘cure’ what is amiss with you in your situation, but I am saying to stay active. More motion, and flexibility seems to help. I massage Ric’s lower legs, and we even joke about it being our ‘together time’. Which the family thinks is pretty funny since he is 75 and I am 70. Good luck to you. Stay active, read up online, don’t give in. Make sure you wear comfortable, roomy shoes if foot/ankle swelling are an issue. Drink plenty of water, and walk as much as you can. Blest be.. from Union Square!!!

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