What is Lymphedema? Lymphedema refers to swelling that generally occurs in one of your arms or legs.

Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in your lymphatic system, an important part of your immune and circulatory systems. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and as the fluid builds up, the swelling continues. Lymphedema is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to your lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment.

What Causes Lymphedema?

Surgery. Lymphedema can develop if your lymph nodes and lymph vessels are removed or cut. For instance, surgery for breast cancer may include the removal of one or more lymph nodes in your armpit to look for evidence that cancer has spread. If your remaining lymph nodes and lymph vessels can’t compensate for those that have been removed, lymphedema may result in your arm.

Radiation treatment for cancer. Radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of your lymph nodes or lymph vessels, restricting flow of lymph fluid.

Cancer. If cancer cells block lymphatic vessels, lymphedema may result. For instance, a tumor growing near a lymph node or lymph vessel could become large enough to block the flow of the lymph fluid.

(Lymphedema information provided by

  • Go see your doctor if you feel something strange like a tight rope going down the inside of your arm. Or if one arm looks swollen compared to the other.
  • The over-the-counter lymphedema sleeves and gauntlets are the best. I use the Juzo ones that come in a box.   I found the custom fitted ones are expensive and not worth it. Hopefully your hospital or surgeon can refer you to a place that has a fitter to help with the correct sizing and compression.
  • There are physical therapists that specialize in Lymphedema therapy (who knew?) ask your doctor for a referral. They can be a great resource in showing you how to keep the swelling down and how to prevent flare-ups.
  • Wear your gauntlet (the glove with no fingers) and your sleeve when you travel on an airplane. shares the things that survivors, including myself, learned while being treated for cancer. We are not medical professionals and everyone is different, so please consult your physician about anything you read on this site or on any other site. Your health is important and you should make all medical decisions in consultation with your doctor.