Did you recently have surgery and are worried about lymphatic issues?

Your doctor may have mentioned lymphedema when discussing your post surgery home care, but if you were left with a few questions, I’d love to help answer them.

Surgery is extremely invasive, and the internal balance of our body’s systems is delicate.

To stay healthy, we need to educate ourselves.

In this brief article, I’ll help you better understand your lymphatic system, how to cleanse it, and what you need to know once you have surgery.

How Surgery Affects the Lymphatic System & Post-Surgery Home Care

Mastectomies are serious surgeries that often lead to lymphedema in the arm on the same side of the removal. Other types of cancer surgeries, too, can lead to lymphedema if lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes are removed or damaged.

Cancers such as:

  • Urological
  • Abdominal
  • Pelvic
  • Gynecological

Also can lead to lymphedema.

There are also some risk-factors that help determine whether or not you’ll develop lymphedema. These include:

  • Infection
  • Obesity
  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Lymph node removal

Even some non-oncological surgeries lead to lymphedema due to scar tissue or trauma to the lymphatic system.

When excessive drainage occurs through an incision and it doesn’t heal correctly, there may be an increased risk of lymphedema.

Post-surgery home care is extremely important for this reason. Keep your wound clean, get lots of rest, eat healthy wholes foods if you can, and keep the area of your body where surgery was performed elevated to help reduce swelling.

There are multiple stages to lymphedema, but if you’ve been diagnosed with chronic lymphedema after surgery you may be wondering if it’s permanent, why some cancer patients get it, what complications come along with it, and what are the best ways to treat it. I’d love to touch on these questions for you.

Is Lymphedema Permanent?

Yes, unfortunately. There is no known cure for lymphedema. Treatment is designed to reduce swelling and relieve symptoms. It’s important to speak with your doctor about this illness and how to prevent it from getting worse.

For individuals with cancer, lymphedema or lymph fluid build-up, can be caused by heart or vascular dysfunction or disease, scar tissue, genetic changes, repeated surgery in the same area, and infections surrounding the tissue.

Why Do Some Cancer Patients Get Lymphedema?

In most of the cases of lymphedema that I’ve seen, the removal of lymph nodes and radiation therapy near them, increases a cancer patient’s risk of developing lymphedema.

So, some patients who don’t have their lymph nodes removed or experience radiation near them, most likely will not suffer from post-operative lymphedema.

It can also take up to 3 years after surgery for lymphedema to develop, but the risk for it stays with a person throughout their life and increases if they experience a new injury in their extremities.

Are There Complications from Lymphedema?

Yes! Lymphedema is horrible for the body, and some infections like lymphangitis and cellulitis are more likely once you’re diagnosed with it.

Cellulitis is a skin infection that can easily become systemic. Lymphangitis is a viral, bacterial, or fungal infection in the lymph vessels. Both are serious and require medical attention. If you develop a fever, chills, or red, hot, itchy skin in combination with lymphedema, you most likely suffer from an infection and need to see your doctor immediately.

Best Ways to Treat Lymphedema After Surgery

Lymphedema can be managed with something called complete decongestive therapy (CDT). CDT uses multiple methods to help reduce fluid retention.

First, you’ll start with wrapping and compression. Your doctor or physical therapist will likely prescribe you special compression garments or bandages to help drain lymph fluid from your extremities. You’ll stay wrapped 24 hours a day, with the exception of showering.

Second, exercise is highly recommended. You and your doctor or physical therapist should discuss what type of exercise is most appropriate given your situation. Moving your arm and leg muscles is typically recommended. Movement helps pump the lymph fluid.

Finally, manual lymphatic drainage is extremely helpful in improving lymphatic flow. This is the type of therapy I perform for post-surgery home care to promote lymph drainage in a healthy way.

In severe cases of lymphedema, your doctor may recommend surgery. However, these preventative measures can greatly reduce your risk of more surgery.

I Would Love To Help You…

If you live in my area and are searching for a manual lymphatic drainage massage therapist, I’d love to help you out.

Please feel free to send me a message or book your first appointment. Together we can combat lymphedema and go over a home care protocol.

Learn more about the lymphatic system in some of my previous posts to keep yours happy and healthy!