Jun 022015

What is Lymphedema

Lymphedema is a disorder that affects the lymphatic system. This condition can have some serious consequences, but unfortunately the diagnosis of these problems is highly subjective. There is no standardized test and every case is different. Usually a doctor must collect a body of evidence and weigh each variable before coming to a conclusion.

Below are the most common means in which lymphedema is identified.

Size Increase of Body Parts

A common trait associated with this illness is the swelling and enlargement of body parts. Normally doctors look for about a 10% volume increase. An arm or a leg that increases in diameter by two or more centimeters is suspicious. While this may seem straight forward, taking accurate measurements of body parts is problematic. Torsos, abdomens, hands, and feet all have irregular shapes. To complicate matters, it can be impossible to determine what the normal size should even be. Without a precise measurement of original dimensions, it cannot be determined that there is any true swelling at all.

Symptoms Survey

In addition to the swelling and size increase associated with this illness, skin color may change around the affected area. It may become sore or sensitive. Patients may experience tenderness and decreased range of motion. In some instances, it can feel warmer to the touch. While some of these symptoms are acute in certain cases, they don’t all have to be present. In fact, symptoms may be so mild that the patient does not even recognize the problem. There are products developed by many companies to help those suffering with the symptoms of Lymphedema.

Bio Impedance

Some doctors will measure the fluid levels in the surrounding tissues to balance their analysis. Higher levels of fluid indicate a problem with the lymphatic system. While this method helps to clarify the conditions, it is not actually FDA approved. Doctors must consider all factors in each case and rely on their best judgment and expertise.


This imaging system can map out and reveal much about a patient’s lymphatic system. The information obtained using this procedure can do more than just spot areas suspected of lymphedema. This equipment is complicated and requires special training to analyze results accurately. If more basic tests have not led to a conclusive diagnosis, the use of one of these devices may become necessary to clarify the matter.

Do you or someone you know live with lymphedema?  What has your/their experience been like?

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