Why is my Arm/Leg Swollen?

If you have just been diagnosed with peripheral edema or lymphedema and have been in therapy some of your basic questions still may never have been answered. Maybe you forget to ask or felt it was not appropriate to ask your therapist, but the question I hear most often is why is my arm or leg swollen?

Swelling most often occurs when the blood return system or the Lymph transport system is reduced. The most common reason the blood return system is slow is due to a weak pumping action of the heart or problems with the blood vessels. In the case of Lymphedema the lymph transport system may be damaged by surgery and radiation. Some people are have both problems.

Signs of Lymphedema

Limb feels full or heavy

Skin feels tight

Less movement in the joints

Difficulty fitting limb into clothing

Ring or watch feels tight

Blood is carried to our arms and legs by the blood (circulatory) system, bringing with it the nutrition that keep our bodies healthy. It is transported through the walls of the blood vessels to feed the tissues and bring them life giving oxygen.

Most of the fluid returns to the blood but some of the fluid (protein, lipid and other large molecules) that the blood (venous system) is unable to pick up are picked up by the lymph system. If the system is working properly the fluid is removed from the limb and brought back into the blood supply. Stockings and sleeves compress the limb helping blood vessels to work better and help fluid go back into the bloodstream.

The good news is that effective methods have been found to the help control edema and prevent sores and ulcers. Talk to your therapist or call us if you need more help!

John Wellum, CPD

*Important: We are smarter than to try to practice medicine without a license! The information presented on this site is for informational purposes only. New medical information is available weekly - so check with your doctor and therapist before making any changes to your treatment!

What is new this month...!


Juzo's new Signature print armbands and gauntlets.