medical IDs for lymphedema

Medical IDs for Lymphedema

for breast cancer see this article

The confidence to live with lymphedema

Hundreds of millions of people around the world are living with lymphedema. While the condition can be uncomfortable for some, for others it can be debilitating—and even dangerous. A person living with lymphedema will have abnormal swelling in the arms, legs, or other parts of the body caused by an excessive amount of lymphatic fluid (lymph) in the affected area. This buildup can be triggered by anything from a sports injury to cancer treatment. In most cases, lymphedema is a lifelong condition that requires constant monitoring and care. 

MedicAlert medical IDs for lymphedema can play an important role in monitoring and care by keeping you safe if you are in an accident or have another medical emergency.

How MedicAlert protects those living with lymphedema

One thing you shouldn’t worry about is what could happen if there’s an emergency. MedicAlert’s protection plans offer benefits that extend beyond the ID, providing safety and peace of mind for people living with lymphedema, their families and caregivers.

24/7 Emergency Response

Our team provides first responders the information they need to provide fast, accurate care.

Digital Health Profile

All your vital information, all in one place for you and your caregiver.

Emergency Contact Notification

In an emergency, we connect families so that no one is alone in a crisis.

Patient Instructions

Share the information that’s important to your care, such as use of rescue medications or contraindication for tests like MRIs.

Pair medical IDs for lymphedema with the protection plan that’s right for you.

What exactly is lymphedema?

Lymphedema is an abnormal buildup of lymph in the body’s soft tissues. This can happen as a result of cancer treatment, injuries, and other causes. This buildup of lymph can cause swelling, discomfort, and pain in the affected area. While lymphedema usually occurs in the arms or legs, it can also occur in the face, neck, abdomen (belly), or genitals.

There are two main types of lymphedema: primary and secondary. According to researchers at Cleveland Clinic, primary lymphedema results from rare, inherited conditions that prevent the lymphatic system from developing properly. Lymphedema from these conditions can appear:

  • In infancy: Called Milroy’s disease (congenital lymphedema)
  • During puberty, pregnancy, or up until age 35: Called Meige disease (lymphedema praecox)
  • After age 35: A rare, late-onset lymphedema (lymphedema tarda) can cause lymphedema after 35. This type usually causes swelling only in the legs

Secondary lymphedema is the most common form of lymphedema, and it typically results from trauma.

What causes lymphedema?

The lymphatic system is very close to the skins surface, so any type of trauma to the body can disrupt drainage or permanently damage lymphatic vessels or lymph nodes. According to researchers at Cleveland Clinic, in addition to trauma, lymphedema can be caused by:

  • Breast cancer surgery, lymph nodes are removed, damaging the lymph vessels; radiation (damages top layer of the skin, decreasing draining due to the skins reduced ability to stretch) and chemotherapy (causes abnormal scarring known as fibrosis to the lymphatic vessels, resulting in impaired transport of lymph throughout the system)
  • Cardiac impairments, specifically congestive heart failure (CHF), which decreases heart function
  • Infection, which can damage lymphatic vessels and nodes
  • Kidney disease, which causes decreased ability to remove fluid and waste products from the body
  • Obesity, which causes excess adipose tissue (fat) to press on lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes
  • Cancer treatments of the prostate, pelvic area, lymph system, head or neck, which can cause damage to the lymph nodes and vessels
  • Tumors, which can block lymphatic vessels

Vascular impairments can also cause lymphedema. The network of veins that work to return blood to the heart from all the organs of the body is called the venous system. If the venous system becomes impaired or there is damage to the vascular system, the lymphatic system acts to help filter out fluid. If a chronic issue with the vascular system is left untreated, researchers at Cleveland Clinic say the lymphatic system will eventually be unable to carry this large lymphatic load and swelling will start. An untreated chronic venous insufficiency will turn into lymphedema.

What to engrave on MedicAlert medical IDs for lymphedema:

MedicAlert offers free custom engraving on all our lymphedema bracelets and other medical ID products. Engravings on medical IDs for lymphedema should include any critical medical information that can protect and save lives in an accident or medical emergency, for example:

  • Lymphedema
  • Restricted extremity (e.g., leg, arm, abdomen, genitals)
  • Current medications
  • Emergency contact information
  • Designated physician or lymphedema specialist
medical IDs for lymphedema

Sample engraving. Consult our team if you need help engraving your medical ID for lymphedema.

What are the symptoms and complications of lymphedema?

Lymphedema symptoms can be mild or severe and they can develop soon after a trauma or surgery. In some cases, lymphedema symptoms can develop months to even years later. Some of the most common lymphedema symptoms include:

  • A feeling of tightness or rigidity (hardness) in the skin
  • Aching, numbness, tingling, or other discomfort in the affected area
  • Changes in the texture of the skin
  • Fullness or heaviness in the affected area
  • Limited movement or flexibility in joints close to the affected area (e.g., lymphedema in the arm can also affect the wrist, shoulder, and/or hand)
  • Red skin or a hot feeling in the skin
  • Swelling in parts of the body (arm, leg, abdomen, genitals, etc.)
  • Trouble fitting the affected area into clothes
  • You haven’t gained weight, but rings, watches, bracelets, and collars feel tight

Lymphedema that develops after breast cancer treatment, can affect the breast, underarm, chest, and the arm closest to the surgery. After cancer in the pelvis or abdomen has been treated, lymphedema may appear as swelling in one or both legs, the abdomen, or the genitals. In addition, treatment of head and neck tumors might lead to lymphedema in the face and neck.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) describes the severity of lymphedema by stages including 0, 1, 2, and 3. In stages 0 and 1 (early stages), lymphedema is often reversible. In stages 2 and 3 (later stages), people living with lymphedema might not respond to treatment. 

  • In stage 0 the individual has no swelling, but may feel heaviness or fullness in the affected area. The skin in the area may be tight. These sensations are often subtle. 
  • In stage 1 the affected area is swollen and there may be stiffness. Swelling does improve when the arm or leg is raised.
  • In stage 2, the individual will experience more swelling than stage 1, which does not improve when the arm or leg is elevated. The affected area is firm or hard, and is larger in size than stage 1.
  • In stage 3, the person will experience significantly more swelling than stage 2. Swelling can be so severe, that the affected area cannot move on its own. The skin can be very dry and thick, and the swelling can cause blisters to form or fluid to leak from the skin. 

In stage 2 or 3, risk for infection in the affected area is greater than stage 0 or 1. 

How do you diagnose lymphedema?

A qualified healthcare provider will diagnose lymphedema by performing a physical exam and ordering one or more tests such as:

  • Lymphoscintigraphy, to check the lymphatic system for disease
  • Doppler ultrasound, to estimate blood flow through blood vessels
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to produce detailed images of the extra fluid in the tissues
  • Computed tomography scan (CT), to display the size and number of lymph nodes, which helps determine the type of primary lymphedema
  • Bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS), a newer non-invasive technique used to measure fluid volume in different parts of the body. With regular, routine assessments, BIS can detect lymphedema before symptoms have a chance to develop
  • Indocyanine green lymphography (ICG), an imaging technique that assesses lymphatic vessel function

Being a MedicAlert member is very worthwhile. If you have any allergies, diabetes, or just simply take any medication - you should have a MedicAlert ID. It is the best way to go. I am very happy with my MedicAlert ID and membership plan.

How do you treat, manage, and live with lymphedema?

There is no cure for lymphedema. However, certain treatments can help reduce swelling and prevent complications. Available treatments will vary by stage, cause, and other factors. For example, decongestive treatment, which is often administered by a lymphedema specialist, is commonly recommended for the first two stages of lymphedema. This includes:

  • Compression devices, stationary or portable machines that help increase fluid flow in the lymphatic vessels and prevent fluid buildup in the limbs. Compression devices also help reduce the risk of infection in hospital settings and others.
  • Exercise to restore flexibility and strength, and improve drainage.
  • Keeping the arm raised above the level of the heart, to help drain built up fluid.
  • Taking care of the skin to prevent infection and skin breakdown.
  • Wearing a compression sleeve to prevent an accumulation of fluid in the limbs.

If a person living with lymphedema has an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed. Examples include amoxicillin (a penicillin antibiotic), clindamycin (a lincomycin antibiotic), or clarithromycin (a macrolide antibiotic). In some people living with lymphedema, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) ketoprofen has shown promise in reducing pain and swelling. 

Because of the varied, often changing nature of related issues, medical IDs for lymphedema help ensure medical professionals have the latest version of your medical history available instantly.

In severe cases of lymphedema or when other treatments don’t work, your doctor may suggest surgery to help ease symptoms. Cleveland Clinic provides the following examples of surgeries for lymphedema:

  • Debulking: Involves removing all of the skin, fat, and tissue of the affected area and then placing a skin graft over the region. Debulking is only used in very advanced, severe cases.
  • Liposuction: A treatment where fat and other tissues are removed through a small incision in your body.
  • Lymph node transfer: Lymph nodes from other parts of the body are placed into areas where there has been impairment to the lymphatic system. This procedure helps restore a healthy lymphatic system to that region.
  • Lymphatic bypass procedure: Lymphatic vessels and veins are connected and re-routed around obstructions so that the lymph fluid can drain directly into the body’s venous system.

How medical IDs for lymphedema combined with MedicAlert Membership provide peace of mind

If you are living with this condition, doctors recommend wearing a medical ID for lymphedema. In any given year, millions of people living with lymphedema will require emergency services or be admitted to the hospital for the pain and uncomfortable swelling associated with the condition. Wearing a MedicAlert medical ID for lymphedema can help protect you in any of these situations.

Any type of trauma to the affected limb or body part can worsen lymphedema. A MedicAlert ID for lymphedema lets emergency responders, ER doctors, and hospital staff know that you are living with the condition, so blood draws, IV insertion, and blood pressure equipment can be avoided in or near the affected area. When paired with a MedicAlert protection plan, our medical IDs for lymphedema become even more valuable to your safety and care. 

  • We’re your voice:  If you can’t speak for yourself due to a medical emergency, your ID will speak for you – informing others about your lymphedema and any medications you’re taking.
  • 24/7 emergency protection:  In an emergency, the MedicAlert team will relay all of your critical medical information to first responders, no matter where or when your emergency happens.
  • Always connected:  You should never be alone in an emergency. That’s why MedicAlert will reach out to your designated contacts if you are unable to do so.
  • Live with peace of mind and confidence:  MedicAlert will be there for you every step of the way. You’ll have the confidence and freedom to live your life with lymphedema, knowing we’ve got you covered. 
DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. The information in this article is presented for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified healthcare provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.