Early signs of lymphoedema

Because lymphoedema is easier to manage and treat in its early stages, it is important to look out for any signs that you are developing lymphoedema and to see your lymphoedema practitioner or doctor soon after they appear.

If you are at risk of developing lymphoedema, see a lymphoedema practitioner for regular check-ups rather than waiting for signs to appear. Taking action at an early stage can help reduce the risk of developing lymphoedema and the severity of lymphoedema if it does develop.

You may have one or more of the following symptoms and/or signs in the affected area:

  • feeling of tightness, heaviness or fullness
  • aching in the affected area
  • swelling that comes and goes or is more noticeable at the end of the day
  • clothing, shoes or jewellery feeling tighter than usual
  • not being able to fully move the affected limb
  • pitting of the skin (when gentle pressure leaves an indent on the skin).

If you are unsure whether any symptoms are an early sign of lymphoedema, contact a lymphoedema practitioner. You can ask your general practitioner (GP) or specialist to refer you to a lymphoedema practitioner for assessment or see How to find a lymphoedema practitioner.

If left untreated, lymphoedema can progress and cause a range of problems, including:

  • trouble moving around and doing your usual activities
  • discomfort and sometimes pain
  • difficulty fitting into clothes or shoes
  • an increased risk of infections and of small infections becoming more serious
  • further hardening of the skin and other structures (fibrotic changes)
  • lymph fluid leaking from the skin (this is known as lymphorrhea)
  • very rarely, the development of lymphangiosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer.

Recognising and managing infections

How an infection starts

If lymph fluid can’t drain properly, bacteria can multiply and an infection may start in the affected area or sometimes more generally in the body.

Who is at risk

People with lymphoedema are at higher risk of getting a serious infection known as cellulitis.

Signs of cellulitis

Redness, painful swelling, warm skin and fever, and feeling generally unwell.

When to start treatment

See your doctor immediately, as antibiotics may be necessary. Treating symptoms early will improve management of cellulitis. Having one episode of cellulitis increases the risk of further infections.

When to take antibiotics

Talk to your doctor about an “in case” prescription for antibiotics, so you can start antibiotics as soon as you notice symptoms. If you have cellulitis several times during the year, taking antibiotics for an extended period may help.

Click on the icon below to download a PDF on lymphoedema


Printed copies are available for free - Call 13 11 20 to order

Instructions for downloading and reading EPUB files

Apple devices

The iBooks application must be installed on your Apple device before you can read the EPUB.
Different ways to download an EPUB file to your Apple device:

  • email EPUB files to yourself and transfer the attachment to iBooks.
  • copy EPUB files into DropBox (or a similar service) and use the DropBox app to send them to iBooks.
  • open EPUB files directly from Mobile Safari and open them in iBooks, where they are saved automatically by downloading the EPUB from the website.

Need more help? Visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4059

Kobo

To download an EPUB file to your Kobo from a Windows computer:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • select “Open folder to view files” to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

To download an EPUB to your Kobo from a Mac:

  • download and save the EPUB directly onto your desktop.
  • connect your Kobo to your computer using the USB cable and tap “Connect” on your eReader.
  • open your “Finder” application.
  • select “Kobo eReader” from the listed devices to view the contents of your Kobo.
  • navigate to where you have stored your EPUB file in “Finder”, probably in documents or downloads, and drag and drop it into the Kobo window. You can now disconnect your Kobo to read the eBook.

Turn on your Kobo and your EPUB will be located in “eBooks”, while a PDF will be located in “Documents”.
Need more information? Visit: http://www.kobo.com/help/koboaura/response/?id=3784&type=3

Sony Reader

To download an EPUB file on your Sony Reader™:

  • ensure you have already installed the Reader™ Library for PC/Mac software
  • select the eBook you want from our website and click the link to download it.
  • connect the Reader™ to your computer.
  • open the Reader™ Library software and click “Library” in the left-hand pane and select the eBook to view it.

Need more help? Visit: https://au.readerstore.sony.com/apps_and_devices/

Amazon Kindle 2nd Generation devices

EPUB files can’t be read on the Amazon Kindle™. However, like most eReaders, Kindle™ 2nd Generation devices are able to display PDFs. We recommend that you download the PDF version of this booklet if you would like to read it on a Kindle™.
To transfer a PDF to your Kindle™ via USB cable from your computer or Mac:

  • download the PDF directly onto your computer.
  • connect the USB cable to your computer’s USB port, and the micro USB end of the cable to your Kindle™. Note: the Kindle™ won’t be available as a reading device while it is connected to your computer until it has been disconnected.
  • open the Kindle™ drive and several folders will appear inside. The “Documents” folder is where you will need to copy or drag the PDF to.
  • safely eject your Kindle™ from your computer and unplug the USB cable. Your content will appear on the Home Screen.

Kindle also provides a Kindle Personal Documents Service that allows users to send documents as an attachment directly to your eReader. For more information on this service, visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_1-1?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200767340&qid=1395967989&sr=1-1
For more information on accessing a PDF on your Kindle™, visit www.amazon.com/manageyourkindle, log in to your account and click on Personal Document Settings.
Need more help? Visit https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200375630

Android and PC

You can also download and open eBooks on Android devices and PCs with appropriate apps or software installed. Suitable eReader apps for Android include Google Play Books, FBReader and Moon+ Reader. Suitable software for PCs include Calibre and Adobe Digital Editions.


This information was last reviewed in June 2019
View who reviewed this content
View our editorial policy

Support services

Life after cancer treatment
Webinars, exercise and nutrition, sexuality programs, and back-to-work support

Cancer Council Online Community
A community forum – a safe place to share stories, get tips and connect with people who understand

Cancer information

Staying healthy after treatment
Lifestyle changes that can help keep you in good health

View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends

TOP BACK TO TOP