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Signs and Symptoms of Lymphedema

Lymphedema can develop in any part of the body, and it typically occurs in the part of the body that is “drained” by lymph nodes for that specific area. For example, if you had lymph nodes removed under your arm (axillary lymph nodes), you could develop lymphedema in the chest, back, or arm on that same side. Lymphedema typically begins at the farthest part of the limb (hand/wrist or foot/ankle) but you should monitor all areas that are at risk. Signs or symptoms of lymphedema include a full or heavy sensation in the limb(s), tightness of the skin or tissue, decreased flexibility in the hand/wrist/foot/ankle, difficulty fitting into clothing in one specific area, or ring/wristwatch/bracelet tightness. If you notice swelling in an area, call your physician. Even if the edema goes away—you could be experiencing an early sign of lymphedema. Early treatment minimizes the symptoms and can improve the outcome.

Lymphedema has a number of stages, from mild to severe: