By now we all are familiar with lymphedema as the abnormal lymphatic swelling in arms or legs, however another aspect of it which we have not touched upon is the case of lateral lymphedema. What is it? and What are the common lymphedema symptoms associated with this?
Lateral lymphedema is a lesser known and understood form of lymphedema post breast cancer surgeries or radiation therapy. Dr. Joachim Zuther, a well known lymphedema specialist, about whom we mentioned in our top lymphedema blogs, says that lateral lymphedema may affect the trunk or breast and often mistaken or overlooked as a side-effect of the breast cancer procedures.
The lateral, anterior and posterior axilla and chest wall are prone to collecting lymphatic fluid after such procedures. And it does not help at all when the swelling spreads to the entire wall of thorax and thereby putting additional psychological burden on the lymphedema patients.
However, the lateral lymphedema may or may not be present with lymphedema in arms initially. So while your arm may seem normal, you might feel fullness, numbness or tingling with decreased movement of the shoulders on the affected side.
Unlike the lymphedema symptoms in arms, the symptoms of lateral lymphedema may or may not be pronounced, making it difficult to diagnose as well. Thus be on a lookout for any change due to fibrotic tissue or swelling along the scar lines. It is also quite possible that the affected breast may feel heavier in comparison to the unaffected breast. Self-examination is the best clue here and of course the advice of your lymphedema specialist.
Another lymphedema specialist who goes by the name of Jean says that in case of swelling in the upper extremity she always looks for truncal or lateral lymphedema symptoms on the affected side as a thumb-rule. Jean also maintains that in case of slow receding of the swelling in arms applying compression to the upper torso accelerates the draining progress.
The good news is that you can bring the lateral lymphedema symptoms under control by following the usual methods which bring lymphedema in arms under control. But for your convenience we are summarizing them below:
- Maintaining proper hygiene and reporting any rash, change of skin colour or infection in the upper body.
- Wearing broad strap bra or compression bra for proper support as the thin or narrow strap bra puts additional burden on the affected shoulder and also hinders the free flow of lymphatic fluid.
- Avoiding hot water bath which inflames the affected area.
- Application of manual lymph drainage (MLD) or simple lymph drainage (SLD) techniques under supervision of lymphedema specialist.
- Avoiding unnecessary tasks that involve lifting heavy objects like clothes-basket.
- Maintaining a good exercise regimen which includes some light weight training. However, you should not attempt to lift the weights in one go. Increase the weights as you go, over the time.
- Drinking plenty of water to avoid the accumulation of toxins in the body.
- Last but never the least, keeping a positive attitude towards life because without positive outlook depression and self-negativity would slow down the healing of your lymphedema symptoms.
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