What are the signs and symptoms of lymphedema?

Watch out for early signs and symptoms of lymphedema. If you notice any of the following early signs (with or without visible swelling), see a health professional:

  • Swelling that can be sudden, gradual or occasional most often the swelling is in an arm or leg, but it can also be in the chest, trunk of the body, head or neck
  • Clothing, shoes or rings/watch may feel tighter, but not due to weight gain
  • Feelings of heaviness, tightness, fullness or heat in the affected area
  • Aches, shooting pain or pins and needles in the affected area
  • Skin may feel tight or stretched, sometimes its texture feels thicker

Lymphedema will get worse if it is not treated.

If you notice any of the following signs, see a health professional:

  • Any of the early signs listed above
  • Repeat skin infections in the affected area
  • Clear fluid leaking from the skin
  • Hardened areas under the skin
  • Skin changes such as thickening, dry and/or rough areas, colour changes or hard, blister-like nodules on the skin’s surface
  • Feelings of pins and needles in fingers or toes
  • Decreased mobility and function in the joints of swollen limbs
  • If you wear a compression garment that has become too tight, but not due to weight gain

With early diagnosis, treatment and taking charge of your health, you can control lymphedema and lower your risk of it getting worse.

How do I know if I have a skin infection (cellulitis)?

Cellulitis is a sudden, non-contagious skin infection. It is treated with antibiotics and must be treated right away as it can spread quickly. When it is severe, people may spend time in hospital to have the infection treated.

Watch out for signs of skin infection and seek medical help right away:

  • Rapid onset of skin redness, swelling or pain
  • Skin that feels hot or painful to the touch or tingling
  • Skin that is red or with a reddish rash or red streaks or swollen
  • A feeling of tiredness or heaviness
  • If cellulitis worsens, you may feel flu like symptoms; feelings of nausea, fever or chills