Lymphedema is a common side effect of cancer treatment. It is the medical term used to describe swelling that typically happens in the arms or legs. It is caused by the lymph system being blocked, which keeps lymph fluid from draining the way it should. If your aging relative is dealing with lymphedema, there are ways it can be managed.
Symptoms of Lymphedema
Lymphedema can be very mild, almost unnoticeable. However, it can also be quite severe, causing significant swelling.
Symptoms of lymphedema include:
- Swelling in a portion of an arm or leg, which can include the fingers and toes.
- Limb feeling heavy or tight.
- Being unable to move the limb through normal range of motion.
- An aching feeling or general discomfort.
- Infections that recur.
- Skin that becomes harder or thicker.
While lymphedema can occur soon after cancer treatment, or even during cancer treatment, sometimes it does not occur until months or years after treatment has been completed.
Tips for Managing Lymphedema
Experts suggest that making certain lifestyle changes can ease or even prevent lymphedema.
Some tips for preventing or managing lymphedema are:
Weight Management: Being overweight can increase the risk of developing lymphedema. Fat tissue makes it harder for lymph fluid to drain appropriately.
Exercise: Engaging in light exercises that don’t place too much strain on the older adult’s body can help fluids to move through the body. By exercising regularly, the senior may be better able to perform their regular daily activities. A doctor can refer the older adult to a therapist who is experienced with lymphedema and can teach the older adult some appropriate exercises.
Compression Garments: Wearing specialized garments that compress the limb will help fluids to move through them better. The compression garment should be worn while exercising. It’s important that the garment fits correctly, so seniors should work with a professional to choose the garment that is right for them.
Reduce Salt Intake: Eating too much salt, or sodium, encourages the body to hold on to fluids. Doctors recommend eating 2,300 mg of sodium per day or less. To reduce the amount of salt the older adult eats, avoid processed foods and read nutritional labels to choose products that are lower in sodium.
Homecare can help your older family member to manage lymphedema. A homecare provider can encourage and help them to lose weight by preparing healthy meals that are low in calories. Homecare providers can also make certain meals don’t contain too much sodium. Homecare providers can also assist seniors to put on compression garments, which can be quite difficult to do on their own.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Homecare Services in Norwood MA, or anywhere in Eastern Massachusetts, please call the caring staff at CARE Resolutions – (508) 906-5572.