Because there is a great deal of variation in the anatomy of everybody and because lymphedema can be caused by numerous factors, it is difficult to determine if you are at risk. Certainly, if you’ve had lymph node surgery and/or radiation therapy because of cancer, you’re considered to be at some risk for lymphedema. While there are many lymphedema risk factors that are under your control and others that are not, knowing about them can help gauge your level of risk.
It is important that you talk about your specific situation with your primary physician or therapist specialists regarding your risk factors.
Should you have a reason to believe you are at a low risk for lymphedema that is great news. However, this does not mean that you are at zero risk. You may want to still take precautions for avoiding lymphedema and seek help quickly should you notice any factors, signs or symptoms.
In speaking of risk factors there are two types: those with confirmed diagnosis of lymphedema and those at risk of lymphedema. Those that are at risk of lymphedema are individuals who have not yet shown signs or displayed symptoms of lymphedema but have any number of inefficiencies in their lymphatic system. These individuals tend to be those that have undergone the removal of lymph nodes or have undergone radiation therapies in the treatment of cancer.
These risk factors include:
1.) Radiation treatments around lymph nodes
2.) Lymph node biopsies
2.) Serious infections such as cellulitis or erysipelas.
3.) Crushed lymph system from morbid obesity
4.) Chemo-therapies in treatment of cancer
5.) Infection by microscopic parasites (this is more common in tropical countries)
6.) Family history of unknown swelling of a limb
7.) Insect bites
8.) Bone fractures and breaks
9.) Serious burns, even intense sunburn
10.) Prolonged constriction of a limb that can restrict lymph flow
11.) Extremes of heat or cold to the extent that there is trauma to a limb
12.) Sitting or standing for long periods of time without moving, changing position or elevating the limbs.