signs and symptoms of lymphedema

How do I know if I have lymphedema?

The so-called “Stemmer’s sign” is a reliable diagnostic sign of detecting lymphedema.

Try to pinch the skin at the base of your toe. If this is difficult, or even impossible, we speak of a “positive Stemmer’s sign.” This is a sign of lymphedema. Furthermore, deeper natural skin folds that appear over the joints, swelling over the backs of the hand and feet, and taut skin also indicate lymphedema. If you do have a positive stemmer’s sign result, it’s important to consult a doctor. The earlier a lymphedema patient starts treatment, the more likely that edema will be managed well in the long-term.


Early indicators may also include: 

  • An arm or leg starts feeling full or heavy.
  • The arm or leg starts to look swollen.
  • When you press the swelling, it leaves a dent.
  • The skin near the edema feels tight or warm.
  • It becomes harder to move any joints that are affected.
  • There is a sensation of tautness or even pain in the surrounding area.

How do I prevent lymphedema?

Do you have lymphedema? The small things in everyday life make a difference in keeping your edema in check. For instance, wear comfortable, non-constrictive clothes. Take good care of your skin and only use pH-neutral substances. At home, protect against injuries to your nails and skin. Avoid stress and extreme cold because both constrict the vessels. Activities that dilate the vessels, such as sunbathing for a long time, visiting the sauna or taking a hot bath, are not recommended either. While manual lymphatic drainage has a positive effect on the lymph system, you should avoid kneading massages which could over-stress the affected part of your body. And finally, wear compression garments whenever you exercise.